The newest recipient of a South African Test cap, who will be unveiled at Newlands on Friday, is not so new in cricketing terms.

Pieter Malan has been backed to open the batting in place of the injured Aiden Markram and has been playing on the domestic circuit since the 2006-7 summer, making this his 14th season. He is also the third player over the age 30 to make his Test debut for South Africa in two matches, proving what captain Faf du Plessis has long maintained: there's no substitute for experience at the highest level.

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Malan will join Rassie van der Dussen and Dwaine Pretorius as one of the 'older' newcomers to the international game as South Africa seek to smooth over their transition period with seasoned players from the franchise set-up.

"In Test cricket, Jacques Kallis told me there is no shying away from weaknesses and by playing domestic cricket for a long time in your career, you get to know your game," said van der Dussen, fresh from a second-innings half-century on debut in Centurion. "Guys can come through the ranks and make their debuts at 30 and know their game. It's not a case of a guy who is 21 or 22 and he has to prove himself [on the international stage]".

Van der Dussen's debut came 10 years after he worked as a changeroom attendant during a Test match between South Africa and England when he had no professional security in the game. Seeking a contract, van der Dussen moved from his hometown of Pretoria to Potchefstroom, where he made his name as a red-ball player before being considered in shorter formats.

Malan has walked a similar road. He found opportunities hard to come by in Pretoria, despite two seasons of racking up over 1,000 runs, and relocated to the Cape where he made his name in the Western Province provincial side.

In the 2016-17 season, Malan was the leading run-scorer in the three-day competition with 1,069 runs at an average of 118.77, including five centuries. The following summer, he was a Cobras regular and finished third in the franchise four-day run charts behind van der Dussen and Vaughn van Jaarsveld. That was also the season Markram debuted for the national side and so Malan has had to bide his time. Van der Dussen always suspected Malan would make it and was unsurprised to see his determination to succeed.

"Pieter is an avid whiskey drinker so I am sure he has something special lined up"
Rassie van der Dussen

"He is a typical fighter: it has taken him 12 years and it shows the character," van der Dussen said. "He has got more than 10,000 first-class runs, he knows his game, he knows this field [Newlands] very well, he had to move to Cape Town after he didn't get opportunities up north. He is definitely one of the best opening batters in the country, he knows his game, he has scored a lot of runs and his temperament is second to none. I am very confident that if he plays, he will go well. He is a guy who doesn't complain, he gets on with it, he makes big runs, he performs well, year in and year out."

Like van der Dussen, who replaced the injured Temba Bavuma, Malan will know he has to make the most of his opportunity because the man he is replacing is someone in whom South African cricket has placed great store.

Markram has been touted as a captain in waiting, much like Bavuma, and both are considered integral to South Africa's future. That might make it too easy to see van der Dussen and Malan as placeholders, so van der Dussen was quick to point out that there's much to them, specifically that they might be able to make the step easier than a younger player. "If a guy like Pieter plays and I'd like to think the same of me and Dwaine, we won't shy away from a different level because we have a lot of experience under our belt and we know what we are about as cricketers," he said.

And South Africa's captain agrees. "Something Faf mentioned to Dwaine and me when we made our debut was when he said: 'You've had a good 12-18 months in international cricket. This is a different format but you have done this before so you can trust and go out there and everyone backs you'. Being an older player, that's something very assuring."

At the same time, the older players know they can't realistically dream of more than a decade at this level, and even that may be pushing it. So they want to make the years they have really count, and will start the celebrations early: "Pieter is an avid whiskey drinker so I am sure he has something special lined up," van der Dussen said.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent