MONTREAL, CANADA: As if facing Canada wasn't a tough enough task in itself, South Africa learned on the eve of its bid to make it to the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group that it will have to do so without its remaining top-ranked player.
Already without No. 1 Kevin Anderson, South African captain John Laffnie de Jager had to add himself to the team after he learned that Rik de Voest will be unavailable to compete in this weekend's tie because of a wrist injury. As a result, Izak van der Merwe will be joined in singles by Nikala Scholtz.
"Yes, this changes it a little bit," de Jager said at Thursday's draw. "Obviously Rik would have played singles with Izak but unfortunately he's injured, he can't play."
Scholtz will face Milos Raonic, Canada's No. 1, in Friday's second singles match. Raonic is currently ranked 15th in the world after making it to the round of 16 at the US Open, where he lost to tournament champion Andy Murray.
"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," Raonic said. "I've given myself opportunities that when I do play well, I can sort of keep progressing, and I feel like I've improved in all aspects."
The 21-year-old is renowned for having one of the strongest serves in the game.
"I feel like I'm getting better on my return games," Raonic said. "I feel like always my serve is there, I just keep working away at that as well, to keep more pressure on my opponents, but I just want to keep working a lot 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 the return games."
Vasek Pospisil is scheduled to play three of the five rubbers for Canada, including Friday's singles opener against van der Merwe.
Pospisil will also play doubles with Daniel Nestor on Saturday against van der Merwe and Raven Klaasen. Nestor, an eight-time Grand Slam doubles champion, welcomes another opportunity to team up with Pospisil.
"I enjoy playing with him a lot," Nestor said. "He's got a great all-around game, great doubles instincts, and it's a nice refresher from playing with some of 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."
Scholtz, who is currently playing for the University of Mississippi, will be making his Davis Cup debut.
"It's definitely a little different than playing for a university," Scholtz said. "It's something that's always been a dream to me and now it's becoming a reality and I'm just going to grab it at both ends and try to make the most of it and just enjoy it. I'm going in kind of as the underdog and I like that."
And just as Scholtz will face tough odds, so will his South Africa. That said, their captain has showed that he's ready to pitch in wherever he can.
"If nobody else is standing, I'll be out there playing," de Jager said. "Hopefully these three guys will be able to play all five matches but if it's required for me to play, I'll play."
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Vasek Pospisil (CAN) v Izak van der Merwe (RSA)
R2: Milos Raonic (CAN) v Nikala Scholtz (RSA)
R3: Daniel Nestor / Vasek Pospisil (CAN) v Raven Klaasen / Izak van der Merwe (RSA)
R4: Milos Raonic (CAN) v Izak van der Merwe (RSA)
R5: Vasek Pospisil (CAN) v Nikala Scholtz (RSA)
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Captain Martin Laurendeau (CAN) - 13/09/12
Captain John-Laffnie de Jager (RSA) - 13/09/12