Shukri Conrad’s severely weakened Proteas squad, which has been labelled the “C Team” due to the unavailability of national players who are playing in the domestic SA20 tournament, has been given a rude awakening in New Zealand.
There might have been very little to no expectations on the shoulders of the inexperienced squad against one of the top Test-playing nations in the world, however, there was a bit of hope they could pull off what would have been the biggest upset in recent memory.
The slim hopes diminished after the first day of play, where the Kiwis signalled their intention before inflicting a painful 281-run defeat on the inexperienced side to take a 1-0 lead in the two-match series.
Conrad was quick to admit his side was severely exposed by their superior opponents in every facet of the game in the first test, but insisted that his boys would take a great deal of learning from the defeat.
“I think mentally, for now, they are fine, we didn’t do too much of a debrief. I think the real test will come when we step back in there, a few would have taken a knock in terms of how challenging Test cricket is and how far they still are. I think many feel they are closer to the Test side than they actually are and then you go through this, and it’s a rude awakening.”
The defeat might also have exposed the gulf between South Africa’s first-class cricket and Test cricket given most of the players in Conrad’s squad have decent records at that level but struggled to produce the goods at Test level. “I don’t think we must question our domestic structure because it has produced some great cricketers,” added Conrad.
“Yes, there are areas where it can improve but we have to give context here that all of these are inexperienced at this level. They might have heaps of first-class experience but they don’t have any Test experience and there’s a massive gap between the two anywhere in the world, not just in South Africa.”
The second and final Test takes place in Hamilton on Tuesday when New Zealand will be targeting a first series victory over South Africa in nearly a century.