SA primed for Slovenian battle
John-Laffnie de Jager (File)
Johannesburg - Slovenia have announced on Tuesday their squad for next week's crucial Euro-Africa Group One tie against South Africa, without their number two player Aljaz Bedene.
The news came as somewhat of a relief for a South African line-up that will be playing away from home and on a relatively unfamiliar clay court without the unavailable Kevin Anderson, as well as the injured Izak van der Merwe.
The Slovenia line-up, for a tie that will leave the losers facing the prospect of relegation to Euro-Africa Group Two, includes Grega Zemlja (ranked 62nd in the world), Blaz Kavcic (126th) and Blaz Rola (217th).
Despite Bedene's absence, South Africa still face an uphill battle, with both Grega Zemlja and Blaz Kavcic ranked higher than top South African Rik de Voest, who has a 162nd world ranking.
Apart from De Voest, the South African squad has Ruan Roelofse, newcomer Dean O'Brien and Nikola Scholz vying for the second singles berth.
However, South African team captain John-Laffnie de Jager also confirmed on Tuesday that doubles specialist Raven Klassen will be introduced into the squad at the expense of one of the others when the final four-man line-ups are announced shortly before the tie.
"Bedene's absence is an encouraging development," De Jager said.
"And it gives us renewed hope in the face of the absence of Anderson and Van der Merwe.
"But, no doubt, it's going to be a tough proposition against players who are so familiar playing on slow clay courts."
De Jager added that he had full confidence in the South African team, despite heading into the tie as underdogs.
"Strange things often happen in Davis Cup competition and I know I'll have a group of players prepared to sweat blood for their country."
Should De Jager's team fail to beat Slovenia, they will have to face a formidable Russian line-up in order to avoid relegation.