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Conrad hopes SA draw inspiration from success of women’s team, WI and Bafana Bafana

South Africa’s Test team will draw inspiration from the national women’s side, who beat Australia in a T20I for the first time this week, as they embark on a two-Test series against New Zealand with a makeshift side.

“It’s the first time we beat Australia in Australia. That’s a massive thing for any Proteas side,” Shukri Conrad, South Africa’s Test coach said from Christchurch, where South Africa drew their warm-up match against New Zealand XI. “We are watching that with fervent interest. We watch our national teams and we take a lot of pride in that.”

Conrad was also talking the morning after South Africa’s national men’s football team, known as Bafana Bafana, reached the quarter-finals of the African Cup of Nations for the first time since 2000. And they did it by beating 2022 World Cup semi-finalists Morocco in one of the shock results of the tournament. That, the women’s team and West Indies’ Test victory over Australia for the first time in 27 years, will all spur South Africa.

“We obviously watched a little bit and thrilled for West Indies. But I think I spend a lot more time getting inspiration out of the women beating Australia for the first time. And then watching Bafana Bafana get through to the last 16. I find a lot more joy and inspiration in that than in West Indies beating Australia,” Conrad said. “And I think it’s great, not only for West Indies cricket but for world cricket. It gives us a little bit of confidence, knowing that the bulk of those guys that beat Australia were on that self same A tour when we played them a couple of months ago.”

South Africa began their preparation for the New Zealand series with an A series against West Indies late last year which they won 2-1. The West Indies A squad included seven players from the squad that drew the series in Australia. Of those, five were in the starting XI for the Brisbane Test, including the match-winning hero Shamar Joseph. Given how South Africa A performed against the West Indies side, Conrad believes they’ve given themselves the best chance to compete against New Zealand.

“You sit as a coach and sometimes you feel we still need to do this or that but I am really comfortable with where we are at,” he said. “We are as well prepared as we are ever going to be.”

South Africa arrived in New Zealand two weeks before the first Test and have also just completed a warm-up match in which five batters felt comfortable enough to retire out. Raynard van Tonder and Ruan der Swart scored half-centuries while Zubayr Hamza, Keegan Petersen and Khaya Zondo made scores in the 30s and 40s as part of what Conrad said was a plan for them to spend time at the crease.

By agreement with their hosts, the South Africans then bowled on the second day, where experienced seamer Dane Paterson took 4 for 34. South Africa were given a few days off before they head to Mount Maunganui for the first Test. “We want guys to get on and experience the place, experience the culture and experience life in a foreign country,” Conrad said. “Some of the guys went to watch the Foo Fighters the other night. That’s not my scene but we want them to enjoy it.”

There were no questions to Conrad about whether any of the current squad have an eye on the ongoing SA20, where the majority of the first-choice Test players are occupied, but perhaps there didn’t have to be. The handwringing in cricket circles over South Africa’s decision to send the side they have to New Zealand has extended far and wide and all the group can do is believe they have what it takes to cause an upset.

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