With South Africa's top players not available for the upcoming Euro/Africa Group 2 qualifying tournament to be played at the Groenkloof Tennis Stadium from April 9 to 13, the South African Tennis Association have announced a squad of six players with four new faces in it.

Joining Stalwart Nannie de Villiers and left-hander Natalie Grandin, who made her debut for South Africa last year in La Manga, Spain, are Nicole Rencken and three juniors - Chani Scheepers, Roxanne Clarke and Mandy Septoe.

Clarke and Septoe, who hail from the development ranks, are unlikely to play in the tournament with the other four making up the nucleus of the team.

Mariaan de Swardt will captain the side with and will be assisted by Lucinda Gibbs who is the vice captain.

Convener of selectors Annette du Plooy confirmed that Amanda Coetzer, Joannette Kruger, Liezel Horn and Jessica Steck had said they were not available for the Fed Cup as it falls during the Amelia Island tournament, one of the bigger events on the WTA circuit.

"This is the best team we had available," said Du Plooy on Thursday. "Mariaan and I have worked very closely on the selection of this side and we both felt this was a good opportunity to bring youngsters into the side.

"I'm very happy that Nannie could play. She has a lot of experience and can team up with any player in the doubles."

One person who perhaps was unlucky to be left out of the line-up is Surina de Beer. De Beer, who has played in a previous Fed Cup tie and has also reached the third round of Wimbledon has been out of action for 14 months. She made her return to competitive tennis at last month's Gauteng North Open at Groenkloof where she beat Scheepers in the semifinals. In the final, however, De Beer lost to Anca Anastasiu.

"The essence of the team had already been picked by then and we felt that although Surina had performed well at that tournament, one swallow doesn't make a summer and she needed to prove her well-being further before we could consider her," explained Du Plooy.

The 27-year-old De Villiers is known predominantly for her doubles ability but is also a very useful singles player. She has been successful in a number of rubbers for the SA team in both singles and doubles.

Earlier this year, De Villiers showed her well-being by capturing the Canberra Women's Classic doubles title in Australia when she teamed up with Irina Selyutina to beat Samantha Reeves and Adriana Serra-Zanetti 6-2 6-3 in the final.

Grandin, 21, made her debut for South Africa at last year's qualifier in La Manga, Spain, and although she struggled on the slow clay courts, the left-hander from Durban will be a different proposition on the hard courts of Pretoria.

The 20-year-old Rencken, also from KwaZulu Natal, formed a useful doubles combination with Grandin as juniors and in 1999 the pair reached the finals of the Junior Australian Open in Melbourne.

"Nicole played six tournament in Australia and played well there. On that performance and her ranking of 299, she just could not be ignored," said Du Plooy.

Scheepers is considered to be one of South Africa's most promising talents. "Chani is already ranked in the top 400 and is a player for the future. She was also beaten Nicole in their last three matches," said Du Plooy.

Clarke, who hails from Western Province and is also 17 years old, represented South Africa at the Junior Commonwealth Games, Under-16 World Youth Cup in Santiago, Chile, and is also a member of the South African Under-18 team to participate in the African Championships in Tunisia at the end of March.

Septoe is also 17 years old and comes from Eastern Province. She is the number two ranked junior in South Africa.

There will be 25 countries participating in the event.

  • The squad and their international rankings are: Natalie Grandin (ranked 248 in singles and 117 in doubles), Nannie de Villiers (627 and 69), Nicole Rencken (299 and 281), Chani Scheepers (386 and 377), Roxanne Clarke and Mandy Septoe. - Sapa