Rising Black Caps batting star Rachin Ravindra said Friday he is relishing his next crack at Test cricket when New Zealand take on a weakened South Africa side this weekend.
The 24-year-old was voted emerging player of 2023 by the International Cricket Council (ICC) after impressive displays at last year's 50-over World Cup.
World Cup centuries against eventual winners Australia, Pakistan and England earned Ravindra a recall to the Test side, two years after his last red-ball appearance.
The all-rounder has been moved up the order and is relishing the prospect of batting alongside Kane Williamson and Daryl Mitchell against the Proteas.
"It's a little bit different to where I played previously. I was in an all-rounder role a few years ago and now in the middle order," he said ahead of the first Test, starting Sunday in Mount Maunganui.
It will be only his fourth Test appearance.
"I'm excited to get out there with guys around me who have done it for a long period of time," he added.
"Either side of me, you have Kane at three and Daryl at five, amazing Test cricketers so anything I can learn from them will be great."
New Zealand have never won a Test series against South Africa in 17 previous attempts since 1932.
With many first-choice stars committed to playing in South Africa's domestic Twenty20 competition, only seven of their 15-man squad have previously played Test cricket.
Ravindra dismissed the notion that South Africa are underdogs for the two-Test series. The second match starts in Hamilton on February 13.
"They will still be hungry to win. A lot of their guys will want to push for Test selection and it's important we don't lose sight of that," he said.
When the teams last played a Test series in February 2022, New Zealand crushed the Proteas by an innings and 276 runs in the first match, only for South Africa to bounce back and win the second by 198 runs.
Ravindra expects a tough battle.
"South Africa are a very proud sporting nation, not just in cricket," he said.
"They play with fight and a no-fear mentality."