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New-look South Africa ready for 'massive opportunity' against Black Caps in New Zealand

The Proteas will field a completely new-look Test side against New Zealand on Sunday, but stand-in captain Neil Brand says the players are ready to embrace the challenge.

South Africa are missing virtually all of their first-choice players due to their commitments in the money-spinning SA20 competition back home, with Cricket South Africa opting to allow those players to fulfil their contractual obligations to the T20 tournament rather than make the trip to New Zealand for back-to-back Test matches.

The 15-man South African squad that traveled to New Zealand and will contest the first Test in Mount Maunganui on Sunday features no less than eight uncapped players, captain Brand included.

While New Zealand's squad boasts a combined 480 caps between them, the Proteas have only 51, with fast bowler Duanne Olivier leading the way with 15.

The decision to field such a weakened team has been met with criticism from some quarters, but Brand said he and his players are simply focused on doing the best they could for their country.

"It's a massive opportunity. The message has been pretty simple, we just want everyone to be the best version of themselves," he told reporters on Saturday.

"It's a great responsibility and a great opportunity for all the guys here to stake a claim for the Test side.

"There's some very good players in our dressing room. I'm sure some of them will still be in the side in a few months' time."

The new-look Proteas will be trying to protect an impressive record, as South Africa has never lost a Test series to New Zealand in its history, though this will surely be the Black Caps' best chance yet to change that.

"It's a record we're desperate to keep, I want to fly back on the plane knowing we've done something special here," Brand said.

"Hopefully we'll surprise the people of New Zealand. But it'll be a tough series for us and we'll have to do very well to compete with them."

Meanwhile, New Zealand captain Tim Southee said the Black Caps would not be lulled into taking their opponents lightly, as sport is a great leveler.

"Anyone who's played the game knows you've got to respect the game, respect the opposition," Southee said.

"South Africans are very competitive people, very passionate people about their country. So I'm sure that this group of players ... are excited about playing test cricket and will give everything.

"Sports are a great leveller and you just play what's in front of you. Be where your feet are and worry about it one day at a time."

Brand also expected the Kiwis to give nothing less than their best.

"New Zealanders, from what I've heard, they're not very arrogant people," he said.

"So I'm pretty sure that they will have their heads on properly for these test matches. I think it's going to be a tough series for us and we're gonna have to do extremely well to compete with them."

READ MORE: New Zealand vs South Africa first Test: Tips and suggested bets

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