The Proteas revealed their latest hand in the build-up towards next year’s World Cup by announcing their ODI squad for the series against Zimbabwe starting at the end of the month.
The two neighbours will play three ODIs and three T20s.
Here are a few takeaways from the group the national selection panel have assembled.
Dale Steyn is (probably) still viewed as a World Cup trump card
The 35-year-old quick insists he still has three years of top flight cricket left in him, primarily because he wants to take 500 Test wickets.
Yet there’s also still the more immediate dream of winning an elusive showpiece tournament.
Steyn had seemed out the reckoning in white-ball cricket before Morne Morkel’s surprising retirement from international cricket earlier this year.
The ODI series win against Sri Lanka last month had illustrated that while a young attack has great potential, it lacks an experienced presence.
Steyn can easily provide that and still be a major wicket-taking threat.
A less pressurised environment – with all respect – will also help him get back into the swing of things and one’s tempted to say he should play all three matches if possible.
Jonker selection is far less innocuous as it seems
At first glance, it would seem that Warriors stalwart Chris Jonker’s selection is merely to allow David Miller a bit of a breather.
That’s a naive argument.
Miller, who this week announced he’s unavailable for any first-class cricket, is at a crossroads in his international career.
His dream of Test cricket has been dashed and he’s only averaged 21 in ODIs this year.
Miller isn’t a player being given a break, he’s a guy fighting for his place.
This is where Jonker comes in.
The 32-year-old has very much the same power game as Miller and arguably fulfills the same role as him.
The Proteas need Jonker to impose himself in this series for two reasons: Either Miller rediscovers his touch and South Africa have fine backup in him or Miller continues his slump but at least have a capable replacement to fill the void.
Old guard need to prove their worth
It’s a happy development that Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy and Hashim Amla have been included when they easily could’ve been rested.
In Amla’s case, he desperately needs this series to find himself again.
The bearded stalwart has not been up to his usual lofty standards for some time now.
It doesn’t help him nor the team to have left him out and then include him for sterner tests.
Much like Steyn, Amla needs a series where he can serenely compile big scores and play with freedom.
The sight of a uncomfortable, strained Amla is not a pretty one.
Proteas ODI squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Reeza Hendricks, Imran Tahir, Christiaan Jonker, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Wiaan Mulder, Lungisani Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Dale Steyn, Khaya Zondo.