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Depleted Kiwis face tough task against SA

Having lost Ross Taylor through retirement and regular skipper Kane Williamson through injury, New Zealand will have their task cut out for them when they meet South Africa in the opening match of the two-Test series in Christchurch starting on Thursday.

For the first time since 2008, New Zealand are without both Taylor and Williamson and with pace bowler Trent Boult away on paternity leave, the hosts face an uphill battle against the touring side under Dean Elgar.

South Africa have not lost a Test series against New Zealand who were held to a 1-1 draw by a modest Bangladesh squad last month.

Latham’s side need to make the most of another home series before they tour England and Pakistan, but South Africa are in strong form having beaten India 2-1 in their previous series at home.

New Zealand have only managed to win four Tests against South Africa in 45 meetings since 1932, but Latham refused to be bogged down by their poor record.

“For us that’s not necessarily the focus. It’s the process of actually how we get there and if we do play well then hopefully all that stuff takes care of itself,” he said.

“South Africa are coming in off the back of a great series win against India not long ago so they’ll certainly be a great side.”

Johannesburg-born Devon Conway will bat at No.3 in his first match against the country of his birth.

Henry Nicholls will move up to No.4 with Daryl Mitchell, who will replace Taylor at first slip, at five.

Matt Henry will replace Boult in New Zealand’s four-pronged specialist pace attack at the Hagley Oval.

South Africa know the importance of beating New Zealand, currently the second-ranked Test team, but Elgar warned against complacency.

“They’ve had success even with the guys not around, they’ve had success with the current players that they have and we know they’re an extremely dangerous side in their conditions,” Elgar told reporters on Wednesday.

Squads: NEW ZEALAND (World ranking: 2): Tom Latham (capt), Tom Blundell, Devon Conway, Colin de Grandhomme, Cam Fletcher, Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Rachin Ravindra, Hamish Rutherford, Tim Southee, Blair Tickner, Neil Wagner, Will Young.

SOUTH AFRICA (World ranking: 5): Dean Elgar (capt), Temba Bavuma, Sarel Erwee, Simon Harmer, Marco Jansen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Duanne Olivier, Kagiso Rabada, Ryan Rickelton, Lutho Sipamla, Glenton Stuurman, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne, Zubayr Hamza.

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