Cape Town — Vernon Philander is expected to be ruled out of the 2nd Test between the Proteas and Sri Lanka in Port Elizabeth starting on Thursday.
The new ball specialist, suffering from a hamstring strain, did not take to the field on day four of the first Test in Durban.
It was a setback that ultimately hurt the Proteas as Kusal Perera's majestic 153* got the visitors over the line with a wicket to spare in dramatic fashion.
While a decision on Philander's availability for St. George's Park will only be made later in the week, Sport24 understands that the chances are he will not feature.
With Philander also not in the 2019 World Cup plans currently, he might not wear Proteas colours again until this October's three-Test tour to India for South Africa's first participation in the ICC World Test Championship.
If, as expected, Philander is ruled out for the PE Test then the Proteas brains trust do have a few options.
If they want to go in with the same balance they had for the first Test at Kingsmead, then allrounder Wiaan Mulder will be favoured to make his Test debut batting at No 7.
The 21-year-old Mulder is highly rated by Proteas coach Ottis Gibson and he came close to playing in Durban, but this injury to Philander could give him the breakthrough.
The alternative would be to go in with an extra specialist batsman in a selection that would see Quinton de Kock drop down to No 7 and significantly strengthen the Proteas' batting depth.
If they go that route, then the Proteas will have to choose between Theunis de Bruyn and Zubayr Hamza for that spot.
De Bruyn, theoretically, should be ahead in the pecking order but it will be difficult to overlook Hamza given the domestic form he has been in since making his own Test debut against Pakistan in the third Test at the Wanderers.
The Proteas, 1-0 down in the two-match series, can salvage a draw at best if they are victorious in PE.