SA's bench strength superiority
You have all heard the reference that a team is only as good as its bench strength. Following a superb summer of test match excellence from South Africa that could not possibly ring truer.
We all know some players were not on the park for the final red-ball encounter against Pakistan for one reason or another and that certainly provided an opportunity for others who gleefully grabbed the chance with both hands. South Africa is now an extraordinary team that exudes confidence and commands respect world-wide. It is a side that South Africans can be extremely proud of because the squad is choc-a-bloc full of talent just itching to get a crack.
When all parties are fit and raring to go South Africa are untouchable but, more importantly, when one or two are sidelined through injury their potency is not decimated and that is a very important component for all successful international sporting teams. When someone gets given the nod locally it seems he instantly influences a test match, such is the team's bench strength. A quick glance at the archives proves that point.
Just over 12 months ago South Africa took on Sri Lanka in a test in Durban with an extremely different look. At that time it was the best line-up available, and yes they surprisingly did lose but it is fascinating to now note the number of changes to that team. The stark reality is that only four players from the current side were in action then. If we go back even further only five players from the current side were in action against Australia in Cape Town in November 2011 and one of that bunch, Vernon Philander, was on debut.
The last test this summer at SuperSport Park featured the following players: Smith, Petersen, Amla, AB, Faf, Elgar, Peterson, Abbott, Philander, Kleinveldt and Steyn. The above-mentioned test against Sri Lanka in late December 2011 had these players representing South Africa: Smith, Rudolph, Amla, Kallis, AB, Prince, Boucher, Steyn, Morkel, Tahir and De Lange. Swap De Lange for Philander from that test and you have the line-up I mentioned against Australia from a month earlier in 2011.
It really is quite remarkable how team personnel have altered over a short space of time when you do the comparison.
South Africa currently have a big advantage over many teams in the test arena and the aspect of superb bench strength goes a long way to establishing superiority.