Conrad was equally critical of those who drew up the calendar for putting the series in the same window as the SA20, though CSA maintained that the FTP was decided on before the league’s window was finalised. This account is disputed and insiders confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that CSA was already aware of when it planned to run the league when FTP talks happened. Either way, it has not left Conrad best pleased. “Yes, there was a cock-up, or somebody got it wrong with the scheduling, and this is why we find ourselves here,” he said. “It’s unfortunate but we all saw the value of the league last year.”
CSA has also given an assurance that there will “not be any further clashes between our bilateral commitments and the SA20”, though the FTP has a three-Test, three-ODI and three-T20 visit from England scheduled for the 2026-27 season, and some part of that will have to be played in January.
But Conrad’s immediate concern is the series with New Zealand, which is South Africa’s second of the current World Test Championship (WTC) cycle and could see as many as seven debutants. Most of the squad named late last week played in a three-match series against West Indies A last month, so they have had recent, competitive, red-ball game time, and they will depart for New Zealand two weeks before the first Test and play a practice match in order to adapt to conditions. “What we’ve done is that I used the A side tour against West Indies as part of the prep. We are going to be leaving for New Zealand a few days earlier, so that we can prepare there,” Conrad said. ‘We leave on the 19th of January for the Test on the 4th of February.”
And despite the patchwork nature of the squad, Conrad does not want them to be devalued and even backs their chances of pulling off a few surprises. “It’s still South Africa that’s going there. We don’t sing a different national anthem. We don’t wear a different blazer or anything like that. We are going to give it our best shot,” he said. “I hate the fact that South Africa go as underdogs because I don’t think we ever should be underdogs in anything that we do, but we do go as underdogs. Anything that we come back with, whether it is a draw or if we sneak a win, that’s going to be massive for us.”
South Africa have only played two matches in the current WTC and have 12 points. They will only play two-Test series for the duration of this cycle.