Having lost out in the World Group play-offs for four years in succession, the SA team must win the battle in Moscow, which starts tomorrow, or face relegation to the Euro-Africa Group II division for the first time since 2008.
“We have a young team, and some of them don’t play at the top level every week, but they’re excited and ready,” said SA captain John-Laffnie de Jager.
In the absence of seven unavailable first-choice players, veteran doubles specialist Raven Klaasen will be joined by rookies Dean O’Brien, left, Tucker Vorster and Japie de Klerk.
Russia are also under-strength, in the absence of their best players, but they have three men ranked among the top 200 in the world in singles.
While SA do not have one singles player rated among the top 500 by the ATP, Klaasen, ranked 43rd, is the top doubles player in the tie.
“Our preparation has been great, and the guys are looking good on court, practicing well,” De Jager said. “It’s been good for me to see (newcomers) Japie and Tucker play, and I’m happy with their form.
“We have no injury concerns, and everyone’s fit and ready.” Despite the Russians holding home-court advantage, and with freezing conditions expected in Moscow this weekend, De Jager refused to be intimidated.
“All we can do is prepare well. We know Bogomolov and Kuznetsov very well, they’re good players, but they’re not (Mikhail) Youzhny or (Nikolay) Davydenko. I’m confident, if the guys play well and give their best, that we have a chance to win this tie.”
The draw for the tie will be held this afternoon.