De Jager's Davis Cup delight
John Laffnie de Jager (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Having reached the World Group playoffs for the fourth year in succession, South Africa's Davis Cup captain John-Laffnie de Jager, said his side's victory over Slovenia at the weekend was the sweetest of them all.
The South Africans defeated Slovenia 4-1 in their Euro-Africa group one tie in Soweto, with the hosts bagging both return singles matches on Sunday.
"This is our fourth year in a row in the World Group playoffs, so it's huge," De Jager said.
"I've been captain since 2005 and this is my sweetest victory."
De Jager said the performance of his squad, missing a number of key players, was impressive.
"This team has done great," he said.
"Nobody really gave us a chance to win but the boys came out and played great.
"It was a huge team effort and I'm very proud of these guys."
South Africa will face one of eight teams for a place in the top tier of the global team competition including Kazakhstan, Russia, Canada, Switzerland, Italy, Sweden, Israel and Germany.
De Jager said a number of factors would determine their squad for the crucial tie in September.
They were missing the country's top ranked players, Kevin Anderson and Rik de Voest, against the Slovenians.
"When we get to September a lot of these guys will be in different stages of their careers," he said.
Most of these guys are moving up in the rankings, which is very good for South African tennis.
"We'll see who is available, who we're playing, what surface we're playing on, and whether we're playing away or at home."
The mixture of youth and experience had proved a good combination against the Slovenians.
The hosts were anchored by 28-year-old Izak van der Merwe, who won all three of his matches, and veteran doubles specialist Raven Klaasen.
Rookie Ruan Roelofse picked up some valuable experience, losing his first match and winning his second.
De Jager also believed that Jean Anderson, who did not play, had learned a lot from his week with the squad.
"It was a great week for someone like Ruan or Jean to be part of the team," De Jager said.
"Raven and Izak as the senior guys stepped it up.
"They've always been available to play and they're great ambassadors for the game and for South African tennis.
"It was great the way we won, especially for Izak. He's always been the number two player, if Rik's not there, or Kevin's not there.
"When Rik came in it was always between Rik and Izak and this week he had to step up. He was our number one player.
"We expected him [Van der Merwe] to win two [singles] matches and he did it.
"Raven took the lead in the doubles, and together they're a good combination. We've just got to build now.
"We've learned a lot from this tie and all four of these guys can go out and work on a few things and get better."