South African fast bowler Vernon Philander is set to miss the first Test against Pakistan in Centurion having sustained a hairline fracture on his right thumb.
In what has come as a huge blow to the Proteas, they'll go into this Test series with only three of their premier speedsters - Duanne Olivier, Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn - available for selection ahead of the all-important Boxing Day Test as Lungi Ngidi continues to be out of action until February with a knee injury.
The 33-year-old Philander, who had only recently made a return following his rehabilitation for a recurring ankle injury that got aggravated during South Africa's tour to Sri Lanka in July, played in one of the early season rounds of the domestic four-day competition, as well as turned up for Durban Heat in seven of their Mzansi Super League(MSL) matches.
"I really don't even want to think about what would happen should there be another injury," said South Africa coach Ottis Gibson, in wake of all the unfortunate injuries around before the start of a marquee series.
All three of the remaining fit quicks will be playing in Mzansi Super League final on Sunday, but they will not be taking part in next week's round of domestic four-day cricket.
"If you look at where we are, Steyn, Rabada and Olivier become very important to us. We just want to manage them as best we can. We've seen how Dale's been going," Gibson also informed, "I don't want to say we've seen a transformation because he's always been a top player, but he's back to full fitness and performing like the player of old. KG (Rabada) as always is very important to us."
"We've looked at a few bowling options over the past 14 months and we've got what we feel now is a very good bowling attack and group. You've got Steyn, Rabada, Philander, Ngidi and Olivier, who's been in-and-out, but always in our thinking. That's the making of a good attack in any form of the game. My job now is to keep them fit and fresh for them to be at their peak at International level," he signed off.
(Inputs from ESPNcricinfo)