Cape Town — The Proteas , after Monday's innings-and-53-run defeat to England in the third Test in Port Elizabeth, can no longer win the series.
With just one Test remaining, which gets underway in Johannesburg on Friday, the best South Africa can hope for is a series draw.
From start to finish, the Proteas were outplayed in every department at St George's Park and selection will be a major talking point in the days to come.
One decision is out of their hands, with Kagiso Rabada suspended for the contest following the demerit point he picked up after his Joe Root celebration in Port Elizabeth.
The turnaround is quick, so there is not much time to contemplate for the brains trust.
Here, Lloyd Burnard takes a closer look at some of the conversations Faf du Plessis, Mark Boucher and Graeme Smith might be having over the next couple of days.
1. Time up for Zubayr Hamza?
It seems it almost certainly is, for now anyway. The 24-year-old has struggled all series and looked all at sea in Port Elizabeth. Scores of 39, 4, 5, 18, 10 and 2 in the series so far go a long way towards explaining South Africa's top order woes. The obvious replacement is Temba Bavuma , who has been recalled after his 180 for the Lions last week, while Keegan Petersen is another option. If the Proteas opt to go in with an extra batsman in Johannesburg, then both could play in a top order that might read: Elgar, Malan, Petersen, Du Plessis, Van der Dussen, Bavuma, De Kock. If Petersen does not play, then Faf du Plessis emerges as the most logical No 3.
2. Beuran Hendricks to debut?
Given his natural pace and the fact that his left-arm seam offers South Africa something different, Beuran Hendricks seems the most likely replacement for the suspended Rabada. Make no mistake, Rabada's absence will be a massive blow to the Proteas' chances, but Hendricks has been in good form for the Lions this season. He seems more of a fit at the Wanderers than the slower Dane Paterson, who debuted at St George's Park.
3. A case for no spinner?
He has bowled very well in spells in this series, but Keshav Maharaj has not given the Proteas the consistency they would have liked. He did take 5/180 (58) in a marathon effort in England's only innings in PE, but the truth of the matter is that all of Dom Bess, Joe Denly and Joe Root have turned it more than Maharaj in this series. The option of going in without a specialist spinner is always a conversation in Johannesburg, and that will be the case once more here.
4. The return of the allrounder?
Allrounder Dwaine Pretorius was left out of the third Test, making room for Paterson, but his return might be on the cards for the Wanderers. Pretorius knows the 'Bullring' better than most and he has turned out some stellar performances there over the past few seasons for the Lions. The other option is Andile Phehlukwayo , who has been hard at work with Proteas management, with a clear emphasis on his batting.
5. De Kock to move up the order?
It all depends on the balance the leadership wants, but this discussion of De Kock batting higher up always seems to emerge given how effortlessly he seems to take on opposition attacks. More than providing flexibility further down the order, this might give the Proteas top order the backbone it has been lacking all series.
Without having seen the conditions, this is a possible starting XI for the Proteas and the one I think they are most likely to go with:
3. Du Plessis (c)
4. Van der Dussen
6. De Kock