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SA20 2024 starts on January 10, will clash with Test series in NZ

Top South African players will play the league, meaning Test squad will be without several key players

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Aiden Markram's Sunrisers Eastern Cape will begin their title defence in the 2024 curtain-raiser  •  SA20

Aiden Markram's Sunrisers Eastern Cape will begin their title defence in the 2024 curtain-raiser  •  SA20

The second edition of the SA20 will run from January 10 to February 10, 2024 and will clash with South Africa's two-Test series in New Zealand which starts with a warm-up match on January 29.
Since the SA20 is owned in the majority by Cricket South Africa, players are obliged to fulfil their SA20 franchise contracts ahead of national duty. Therefore, players who are participating in the tournament will not be available for the New Zealand tour.
That means South Africa will be without Test captain Temba Bavuma, opening batter Aiden Markram, middle-order players Ryan Rickelton, Heinrich Klaasen and Rassie van der Dussen, allrounder Wiaan Mulder, and their entire frontline attack: Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Marco Jansen, Anrich Nortje, Gerald Coetzee, Keshav Maharaj and Simon Harmer.
All those players have SA20 deals and more could follow after the auction on September 27, leaving South Africa to choose a weakened Test team for the World Test Championship fixtures in New Zealand.
"Protea players in the SA20 will not be going to New Zealand and that is a directive from CSA," Pholetsi Moseki, the CSA CEO, told ESPNcricinfo. "But our plans are on track. The auction will be the next milestone and Shukri [Conrad, the Test coach] will then determine player availability for the tour."
Contacted for comment, Conrad said he will "have to put my thinking cap on" as he selects the Test squad while Moseki saw it as "an opportunity to see if the pipeline is pumping." SA league commissioner Graeme Smith described the clash as "not ideal", but said the league had been "very clear from the start, in terms of how things were created and structured" and is "focused on making sure we deliver the best four weeks of competition".
To that end, the SA20 follows a more balanced schedule than last season, when it had to vacate Newlands, Boland Park and St George's Park after two weeks for the Women's T20 World Cup and then take a 10-day break for an ODI series against England. This season, which begins when defending champions Sunrisers Eastern Cape taking on Joburg Super Kings in Gqeberha, every franchise will host a home match in the first week. The six franchises each play each other home and away before the knockouts.
As ESPNcricinfo had reported earlier, the tournament moves from away from semi-finals in 2024, to three playoffs (an eliminator and two qualifiers) in a knockout structure that mirrors the IPL.
The uncluttered fixture list also means that weekday matches will be played as standalone matches and double-headers will take place on Saturdays only. Sunday matches will start at 3pm local time, in order for fans to enjoy a late afternoon's entertainment before the work week.
The SA20 will start three days after India's all-format tour of South Africa, which ends with the New Year's Test, and will be played in the prime summer January window for the foreseeable future. It was initially planned that there would be no international fixture clashes with the SA20 but the last edition had to make room for a Covid-19 postponed World Cup Super League series against England.
This time around, CSA approached New Zealand about moving the Tests, which were announced in the most recent Future Tours Programme, but have been told there is no room for negotiation.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent for South Africa and women's cricket