South Africa say they will talk to the management of fast bowler Kyle Abbott after media reports said he could be about to turn his back on international cricket to chase a lucrative contract in England's county system.
Fast bowler Abbott, who toured Australia earlier this summer, is reportedly close to announcing a multi-year deal with county side Hampshire to play all formats as a Kolpak player.
While the deal hasn't been confirmed, such a move would rule him ineligible to represent South Africa for the duration of the contract, although he would have leeway to play in domestic T20 tournaments around the globe.
Abbott, who will turn 30 in June, is in line for a deal of up to four years, according to the report by ESPN. While he'd be conceivably able to revive his international career after his county stint was completed, he could be 34 by that time.
"We will discuss it with his agent," a Cricket South Africa spokesman said of the report.
Abbott had struggled to cement his spot in the Proteas side since his debut in 2013, but has recently become an integral part of the bowling unit due to long-term injuries to Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. He was among South Africa's best bowlers in their 2-1 series win in Australia this summer, taking 13 wickets at 14.84 in two Tests.
If Abbott was to turn his back on his country to join the county circuit, he would become the highest-profile player in a string of South Africans taking up county deals this year.
Stiaan van Zyl, who has played 12 Tests for South Africa and scored a century on debut against the West Indies in 2014, signed a three-year deal with Sussex last November. The 29-year-old last played for the Proteas last August but was dropped for their tour of Australia.
Simon Harmer, the off-spinner who has played five Tests since his debut in January 2015, has already signed on with Essex, and went so far as to say "playing county cricket has always been a boyhood dream of mine".
Hardus Viljoen, who has played one Test, has signed for Derbyshire for three years, while Colin Ackermann, a promising 25-year-old batsman who played in South Africa's Under-19 team, has joined Leicestershire on a two-year deal.
All of these players have been signed as Kolpak players, making them ineligible to play for the Proteas for the duration of their county contracts. The players are lured to England by far more lucrative deals than they'd get in South Africa; for example, The Guardian reported in December that Van Zyl's deal with Sussex is worth around three times what he would earn for his South African domestic side, the Cobras.
South Africans are able to play in England under the Kolpak ruling, a 2003 European Court of Justice decision that gave rights of freedom of work and movement to citizens of countries that had signed European Union Association Agreements.
For county cricket, it opened the door for clubs to circumvent restrictions on signing international players and contract South African cricketers as Kolpak players under EU law.
There is uncertainty about the future for the Kolpak ruling following the United Kingdom's referendum in favour of leaving the European Union, which is seen as a factor in the rapidly increasing exodus of talent out of South Africa.
Speaking late last year, Cricket South Africa chief executive Haroon Lorgat conceded his organisation was powerless to prevent players chasing bigger money in county cricket.
"We cannot restrain individuals from plying their trade," Lorgat said.
"We have realised a long time back that the world is a global village with people very mobile. Like in every other country and across every other profession, South African citizens will venture abroad to take advantage of stronger currencies and employment opportunities.
"This mobility affects all professions and is not limited to cricketers who ply their trade in English counties."