Auckland: Cam Fletcher and Blair Tickner have earned their maiden Test call-ups while Colin de Grandhomme and Hamish Rutherford have been recalled as part of an extended New Zealand squad for the first Test against South Africa starting February 17 at Christchurch's Hagley Oval.
The larger than normal 15-strong squad will allow the selectors to better cover their options while mitigating the health risk associated with bringing players into the team environment at short notice, should there be any injuries.
That's presented opportunities for in-form Canterbury wicket-keeper Fletcher, who will be the back-up gloveman to incumbent Tom Blundell, while Central Stags paceman Tickner will provide cover for the quick bowlers.
New Zealand squad for 1st Test:
Tom Latham (c), Tom Blundell, Devon Conway, Colin de Grandhomme, Cam Fletcher, Kyle Jamieson, Matt Henry, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Rachin Ravindra, Hamish Rutherford, Tim Southee, Blair Tickner, Neil Wagner, Will Young.
Seven years on from his last appearance for the Kiwis, Otago Volts batsman Hamish Rutherford has earned a recall, as has all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme, who missed much of last season with a foot injury.
Against a backdrop of Kane Williamson's injured elbow (which hasn't mended in time) and the retirement of Ross Taylor, Rutherford has been included as batting cover in the extended squad, which will again be captained by Tom Latham.
Trent Boult will miss the first Test as he awaits the birth of his third child, while Ajaz Patel is a chance to be added for the second Test should conditions suit and provided he overcomes his left-calf injury.
NZC is currently working through the COVID-19 Health framework for hosting some fans at the matches at Hagley Oval with details to be shared in advance of the first Test on February 17.
The second match of the Test series is scheduled to begin on February 25 at Hagley Oval.
New Zealand has never beaten South Africa in a Test series.