World No 14 Kevin Anderson, who withdrew from last month’s Australian Open with a knee injury, remained indefinitely unavailable, and doubles specialist Raven Klaasen, who reached the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park with American partner Rajeev Ram, would also miss the encounter against Luxembourg.
“The timing for this tie is difficult because it’s in the middle of the US hardcourt swing,” said Ondruska, who was appointed national captain in November.
“To fly back and forth for a week, with the time difference, makes it a difficult schedule.
“Both guys would be a major asset and I’d like to have them involved as much as possible.
“The younger players can learn a lot from them, and they’re good leaders, but I also understand they need to look after their careers.”
In their absence, Ondruska announced a provisional squad including Tucker Vorster, teenager Lloyd Harris, Dean O’Brien, Ruan Roelofse and Keith-Patrick Crowley. Fritz Wolmarans, who turned out in the team’s last tie (a 3-2 defeat to Turkey last season), had retired as a player to focus on his coaching career.
Ondruska would name his final four-man team ahead of the draw, to be conducted the day before the start of the tie.
With 29-year-old Anderson and 33-year-old Klaasen unavailable, Ondruska believed it would give him a chance to start building a new foundation for younger players. Vorster, ranked 295th, was the only squad member among the top 300 singles player in the world, and nobody in the squad was ranked among the top 100 in the doubles division. Four members of the squad were aged between 25 and 27, with Harris turning 19 later this month.
They held the key to future success for South Africa, according to Ondruska, in the international men’s team competition.
“Ideally we’re looking to build and develop this team so we can take them to the next group and beyond,” said Ondruska, who played 12 Davis Cup ties for South Africa between 1993 and 2001.
“The talent is there but it needs to be honed and the guys need to be given opportunities.”
While the short-term objective was to beat Luxembourg and progress to the second round of the Group 2 division, Ondruska said the long-term goal was more important. Having recently left a coaching job at a tennis academy in South Carolina, in order to take up a post in Atlanta, Ondruska was planning to hold two SA camps a year in order to ensure the players were progressing.
“A win next month will create team cohesion and start the building process, but we need to give the players opportunities to travel a bit more and tools to develop,” the skipper said.
“The camps we’re preparing should give them a chance to compete more often in the US, which should give them the confidence to take on guys at a higher level.”
Luxembourg were expected to reveal their squad only 10 days before the tie, starting at Irene Country Club on March 4. The visiting team could be spearheaded by world No 40 Gilles Muller, though he too faced a struggle in juggling Davis Cup commitments with ATP tournaments.