Although Canada boasts a healthy roster comprised of its top players and the South Africans have been depleted by injury, the home favourite isn't taking anything for granted with a spot in the World Group at stake starting Friday.
"We're facing South Africa and their captain has to choose his players based on his situation," said Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau. "We're playing guys who know how to play. It's a best-of-five and we're ready to face anyone."
Kevin Anderson, South Africa's highest-ranked player at 37th in the world, didn't travel with the team to Montreal. And on the eve of the tournament, South Africa captain John Laffnie de Jager learned he'd be without Rik de Voest, who has been sidelined with a wrist injury.
That forced de Jager to add himself to the team in order to meet the four-player requirement.
Slotted in de Voest's place on the court is 21-year-old Nikala Scholtz.
"It's going to be a great experience for him," said de Jager. "Nikala is one of our top young guys so it's a great opportunity for him. … It is a big loss for us that Rick can't play.
"It's just something that happened and we've got to deal with it now."
Scholtz, who plays for the University of Mississippi, will be making his Davis Cup debut when he faces off against Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., in the second of the singles matches on Friday afternoon.
"It's a little different than playing for a university. It's something that's always been a dream to me and it's becoming a reality," said Scholtz. "I'm just going to grab it with both hands and try to make the most of it and just enjoy it.
"I think I'm going in as the underdog — I like that."
Raonic's season has him ranked 15th in the world heading into the competition, on the heels of his appearance in the round of 16 at the U.S. Open, where he fell to tournament champion Andy Murray.
Known for his strong serves, the 21-year-old has been working through the season to improve his health and his game.
"I've really put a lot of effort into making sure I stay healthy all year round, which I feel like I've done a pretty good job with," he said. "I feel like I'm getting better on my return games I feel like always my serve is there — I keep working away at that, as well, to keep more pressure on my opponents.
"I just want to keep working on the transition, especially on the return games, to be able to take advantage a bit more when I do get ahead in the points and put more pressure on my opponents in those return games."
The other singles match will feature Vancouver's Vasek Pospisil against Izak van der Merwe. Pospisil is slated for three matches over the weekend event. He'll also take to the court in Saturday's doubles with veteran Daniel Nestor from Toronto — against van der Merwe and Raven Klaasen — and Sunday's finale, against Scholtz.
It's a partnership that works well, says Nestor, an eight-time Grand Slam doubles winner.
"I enjoy playing with him a lot. He's got a great all-around game, great doubles instincts," the 40-year-old said. "It's a nice refresher from playing with all the doubles specialists on tour. He's got a lot of good, young energy, he's fast around the court and he keeps me inspired."Suggest a correction