Stiaan van Zyl will make his Test debut against West Indies after he was named as JP Duminy's replacement for the Centurion Test. The squad includes two uncapped players in Lions' duo Temba Bavuma, a top-order batsman, and Kagiso Rabada, the young seamer who was part of South Africa's World Cup winning Under-19 outfit earlier this year, and the recalled Robin Peterson.
Peterson is the only specialist spinner in the squad, which is without Dane Piedt, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, and Imran Tahir whose Test career could be in decline after he was dropped. Peterson was not part of South Africa's traveling party to Sri Lanka or Zimbabwe but was given an international lifeline in the recent limited-overs tour of Australia and will now be back in whites as well. Peterson has played one Test against West Indies before, in 2003-04 when Brian Lara took 28 runs off him - the most expensive over in Test cricket at the time.
There was no room for last season's second-highest wicket-taker in the first-class competition, offspinner Simon Harmer, or any of the other reserve batsmen. Farhaan Behardien, David Miller and Rilee Rossouw were all overlooked in favour of van Zyl.
Convener of selectors Andrew Hudson confirmed van Zyl will play, albeit out of position at No.7, but may only get one game. Duminy is expected to be passed fit at some point in the series and was targeting the Boxing Day Test for a recall.
"We have been very pleased with the way the Test squad has performed in its last three outings," Hudson said. "Part of this has been the result of consistency in the selection process and also establishing a pecking order. Stiaan was the reserve batsman against Zimbabwe so he is the logical choice to replace Duminy."
Van Zyl is a regular No.3 and was even tipped to open the batting following the flagging form of Alviro Petersen but will now be asked to do another job. In Duminy's absence, van Zyl will be required to marshal the lower order and may even be called on to bowl some of his medium-pace. Duminy offered South Africa a slightly more than part-time option with ball in hand and van Zyl, with 35 first-class wickets to his name, could do the same.
South Africa's first-choice bowling pack will not want to leave too much for van Zyl to do, though. Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel are all fully fit and will play, with Kyle Abbott waiting in the wings. Rabada, who played two T20s during South Africa's recent visit to Australia, is unlikely to play but has been identified as next in line. The 19-year-old only has seven first-class matches to his name but has already taken 25 wickets at 24.84 and his express pace has excited the selectors.
Similarly, Bavuma's temperament has earmarked him as a future possibility. The 24-year-old batsman has been playing first-class cricket for six seasons and has an average of 35.95. He was the sixth-highest run-scorer last season with 714 runs at 39.66.
Neither Bavuma nor Rabada are likely to play but Hudson explained they are being introduced to an environment they will spend more time in in the future. "We want to bring players, whom we have identified as having international potential, into the team environment. This is a policy that has worked well in the past with the likes of Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock," Hudson said.