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Five areas of focus for South Africa as international season begins

Who should open alongside de Kock? Who is the third prong of the pace attack? One spinner or two?

Firdose Moonda
Firdose Moonda
Quinton de Kock works one into the leg side  •  Getty Images

Quinton de Kock works one into the leg side  •  Getty Images

This summer could be termed project restart for South Africa after they installed a new coaching regime last season, with mixed results. South Africa won only one of five trophies on offer but made strides in developing their squad after the retirement of several high-profile players.
They don't have it all worked out though and, given the number of spots up for grabs in South Africa's T20 team, it's difficult to imagine how they may have shaped up for a World Cup this year, so perhaps its fortunate that they have an additional 12 months to get their combinations right. Here's what they may be looking at as the home internationals kick off:
Who will open the batting with Quinton de Kock?
There are three clear options in the squad: Temba Bavuma, Reeza Hendricks and Janneman Malan, and at least one outside contender in Rassie van der Dussen, although he is likelier to compete for a place lower down the order for this series.
Bavuma opened the T20I batting against England earlier this year and was in handsome form with scores of 43, 31 and 49, but a hamstring injury prevented him from doing the same against Australia. There, a combination of Hendricks and van der Dussen were used but neither hit the heights. Malan, who was the Mzansi Super League's leading local run-scorer, was not in the squad to face Australia but his domestic record presents a strong case for him to be considered. Malan averaged 44.75 in the 2019 tournament, and 33.88 in the 2018 edition, where Hendricks and van der Dussen excelled. Two years ago, van der Dussen topped the run charts with the most scored in the competition so far (469) and Hendricks was in third place.
In numbers terms, then, there may be little between the trio. Ultimately, the decision may come down to who is considered the better foil for de Kock, who will operate as aggressor-in-chief.
And what about the rest of the top six?
De Kock is also the only certainty in the top six with South Africa's squad laden with options. Van der Dussen is an obvious No.3, but so is Faf du Plessis. The decision may rest on whether du Plessis is serious about playing until the T20 World Cup. To judge by his recent IPL form, du Plessis is likely to be the man in possession - he was the leading run-scorer for the Chennai Super Kings.
The other three spots will be distributed among David Miller, Heinrich Klaasen, Pite van Biljon, Jon-Jon Smuts and Kyle Verreynne. Expect to see all of them at some point in the series. Of those, Miller is the most experienced while Verreynne and Smuts are the most versatile. Verreynne will be able to relieve de Kock of the gloves if needs be, while Smuts' left-arm spin will provide a few cheap overs.
One seam-bowling allrounder or two?
There may even be space for more than three of the above, depending on how many allrounders South Africa feel they can accommodate. With Chris Morris unavailable for selection, Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius are in contention for a berth and, although both are seam-bowling quicks, they offer a different skill set. Pretorius has been working on adding pace to his bowling while Phehlukwayo has the ability to disguise the slower ball and operate at the death. He also has a proven track-record as a finisher, although he will be the first to admit that consistency in run-scoring is his next challenge. Pretorius is in a similar position with the bat, though he has been known to appear up the order on occasion too.
South Africa have, against Australia last summer for example, played both Phehlukwayo and Pretorius but that comes at the expense of a specialist batsman, so they would need to be assured of runs from these two to go down that route.
The third seamer
Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje tore up the IPL and will be bringing the heat to the home summer. Now South Africa just need to find their third prong. Reputation would suggest it has to be Lungi Ngidi, but his IPL showing wasn't entirely convincing. Ngidi played four matches and took nine wickets at 18.33 while costing his team 10.43 runs an over. His history of injury may also mean he needs careful management, which could give opportunity to some of the others.
Their choices are between young Lutho Sipamla, who has five T20s to his name and offers good control; left-armer Beuran Hendricks, who has had a good start to the domestic summer with a career-best 7 for 29 in first-class cricket; Junior Dala, the skiddy bowler who would have played last summer if not for a knee injury and Glenton Stuurman, who has been touted as a ready replacement for Vernon Philander in Tests. Having that level of variety means South Africa can choose their third seamer to match the conditions and they have someone for just about every surface.
And how many spinners?
In South Africa, the answer to this is usually one, but there are three specialists in this squad. Tabraiz Shamsi is the only wrist-spinner of the group and the incumbent, but Keshav Maharaj, Bjorn Fortuin and George Linde have also been included, doubtless with subcontinental T20 World Cup conditions in mind. The trio are all orthodox left-arm spinners, differing in experience and added-value ability.
Maharaj had a strong limited-overs campaign for the Dolphins in last season's one-day cup, in which he also captained the team to the trophy, and has been pushing for international limited-overs selection. Linde, who has two Test caps to his name, is a genuine allrounder and may offer added value with the bat, while Fortuin is relatively new on the international scene but has already played in India, where he had decent returns. What these three will have to bear in mind is that South Africa are looking for a spinner who will operate in a containing role, with Shamsi given more licence to attack. If they can fit that bill, we may see more than one spinner in operation at home and abroad.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent