While New Zealand have been ruling several injured players out of their XI, South Africa have found a way to include one of their wounded. Wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock will play the Hamilton Test after passing a fitness test to determine whether the tendon damage on his right index finger was severe enough to sideline him.
De Kock, however, will need at least four weeks to recover from the injury and Cricket South Africa ruled him out of playing the 2017 IPL season for Delhi Daredevils in order to be available for the Champions Trophy and the England Tests that follow.
Although in some pain on the eve of the Hamilton Test, de Kock was able to bat and catch with strapping and a finger splint, the brainchild of physiotherapist Brandon Jackson. When asked why South Africa were risking de Kock when they have a reserve gloveman in Heinrich Klaasen, Faf du Plessis explained the occasion was too important to leave de Kock out.
"It's a big game. Quinton is someone who you don't just replace. From my side, I am trying to have Quinton in my team all the time," du Plessis said. "He has had problems with his fingers for quite a while. It's part of being a keeper. It's never nice to catch balls on the fingertips all the time and it's been painful for him for a while. Maybe the cold New Zealand conditions make it worse. It's hurting for him a bit more now but because it's a big game, resting him for someone else is not an option."
Du Plessis explained that if de Kock was carrying "three or four broken fingers then obviously he won't play," but because the issue could be kept at bay for a while, South Africa were willing to take their chances. More so, because three of the top six (Stephen Cook, Hashim Amla and JP Duminy) were out of form and de Kock, who was one half of a match-winning partnership with Temba Bavuma in Wellington, was among the runs.
The news that neither Tim Southee nor Trent Boult would be playing for New Zealand also did not influence South Africa's team composition, as they aimed to assemble the strongest side they could in search for a 2-0 series win.
"We are trying to put as much pressure as we can on New Zealand," du Plessis said.
At the start of the series, du Plessis admitted South Africa would target Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, who they regarded as New Zealand's key batsmen, because they sensed vulnerability in the rest of the line-up.
"It's a huge blow (for New Zealand). I always take reference to our own team - if we lose guys like them in our side, it will be a huge loss. Seamers that have got experience and the numbers behind them - you don't just replace that in Test cricket," du Plessis said. "But we know whoever comes in can do a job for the day and we have to respect that and play at our best. If we do that, hopefully it will be easier but it's never a guarantee."