The chances of Proteas legend Dale Steyn playing in the fourth Test against Australia have taken a hammer blow after he was not selected for his domestic side's final four-day fixture of the season.
Steyn is on the comeback trail after injuring his heel in the first Test against India in January and his recovery has not gone as fast as the speedster had hoped.
The 34-year-old ruled himself out of playing in the third Test, which starts today in Cape Town, and was not selected in South Africa’s 17-man squad for the final two Tests against Steve Smith’s charges.
Former Proteas captain Graeme Smith told cricket.com.au that Steyn was targeting the fourth Test in Johannesburg and that the paceman was not rebounding as quickly as he wanted after bowling.
"I think Dale Steyn is still a little bit behind in his recovery," Smith told cricket.com.au in Cape Town last week.
"I spoke to him this morning actually. He says he’s bowling well but it’s taking him a bit of time to recover after spells, so I think he’s targeting that fourth Test to be available.
"Whether they pick him or not that’s another thing."
Proteas team manager Dr Mohammad Moosajee provided an injury update prior the four-Test series and said that Steyn would need to play some form of cricket before being recalled for a Test match.
South Africa’s domestic first-class competition enters its final round tomorrow, meaning Steyn will not have a first-class match to prove his fitness.
Which means it’s now highly unlikely the 86-Test veteran, who is just three wickets away from surpassing Shaun Pollock as South Africa’s highest Test wicket-taker, will take on the Australians.
Steyn said on Saturday he won’t put himself in a position where he could potentially exit a match early with injury having rushed back too soon.
"People are saying it is so disappointing that you can't play the four-day game, but what would be worse is playing the game and walking off with another injury," Steyn told Independent Media.
"That speaks for the Test matches too. I can't imagine another Test where I need to walk off halfway because my foot is just a little bruised.
"I can't let my teammates down, or my country for that matter. It has happened a couple of times now. We are pushing for that fourth Test.
"The problem as a fast bowler is I need to land on that front foot of mine. Putting eight or nine times my body weight on that front foot ... it can only handle so much."
Qantas tour of South Africa
South Africa squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Quinton de Kock, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Duanne Olivier, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, AB de Villiers.
Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.
Warm-up match: Australia beat South Africa A by five wickets. Report, highlights
First Test Australia won by 118 runs. Scorecard
Second Test South Africa won by six wickets. Scorecard
Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26. Live coverage
Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3. Live coverage