Proteas out to make amends
Johannesburg - While the South African public mourns two heavy sporting blows at the weekend, the national cricket team will look to make amends on home soil against Australia.
WIN: SA v Australia tickets
After the Springboks crashed out of the Rugby World Cup, and Bafana Bafana were eliminated from the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, followed by an embarrassing melee of celebration in Nelspruit, the Proteas will be determined to shine.
New coach Gary Kirsten, in his first assignment since guiding India to the World Cup title, will be armed with a rookie captain and a handful of fresh faces as they begin a rebuilding period against the former global giants.
The Champions League Twenty20 competition put some dents in South Africa's hopes long before the start of their home tour, which begins with two T20 matches this week.
AB de Villiers, expected to start his new reign as limited overs captain, broke his hand while training with the Bangalore Royal Challengers and was ruled out of both T20 games and the three-match ODI series.
Allrounder Albie Morkel was initially included in the 14-man T20 squad, but was replaced by Ryan McLaren after tearing his abdominal muscle while playing for the Chennai Super Kings.
In the absence of De Villiers, and with Test skipper Graeme Smith having relinquished the captaincy in the limited overs formats, Hashim Amla will hope to lead from the front as the Proteas look to continue their tremendous record against Australia on home soil.
Veteran spin bowler Robin Peterson said this week he believed that Amla, the world’s top-ranked ODI batsman, had the necessary attributes to lead the squad.
“Hashim is a natural leader. Whether he is captain or not, he still displays the qualities of someone who leads from the front,” Peterson said.
“Whenever he voices his opinion, even in a quiet voice, people stand up and listen.
“He is one of those guys that quietly goes about his business and he’s a calm leader.”
South Africa, unbeaten against the Baggy Greens in the three T20 matches they have played at home, will be eager to continue their streak in the shortest format.
The true test, however, begins with the ODI series later this month.
The Proteas have not lost a one-day series against Australia at home in nearly 10 years, but the hosts will be rusty.
While Australia travelled to Sri Lanka for a six-week tour in August and September, the South Africans have not played a match in any format since losing to New Zealand in the World Cup quarterfinals in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in March.
Australia, meanwhile, have had problems of their own in the build-up to their tour.
The visitors arrived in Cape Town at the weekend with a host of T20 players who have never before stepped foot in the country, including teenagers Pat Cummins and Mitchell Marsh.
They have also been hampered by injuries, with the latest casualty, veteran pace bowler Brett Lee, ruled out completely of their tour after undergoing an appendix operation in Cape Town on Monday.
Australia’s chairman of selectors, Andrew Hilditch, nonetheless believed the tourists, the top-ranked ODI team in the world, would put up a strong fight against their hosts.
“South Africa will be an extremely tough tour. They are a very strong side and playing them away is always difficult,” Hilditch said.
“It will be another great test for the Australian side but we are confident they are up for the challenge.”
After the limited overs part of the tour, South Africa will host Australia in two Test matches next month.