Vernon Philander will not play for the Cobras in the season-opening first-class fixture against the Knights in Bloemfontein, after a CSA directive ruled him out of the match. Philander is in the final phase of rehabilitation from the back injury he sustained during the England tour and is the second premier fast bowler after Dale Steyn to be sidelined for this round of matches.
Given that the four-day game is the only competitive cricket South Africa's players will have before a two-Test series against Bangladesh that starts on September 28, Philander is likely to be doubtful for the first Test.
Philander was part of the Cobras' pre-season preparations in Oudtshoorn but did not play in either of their warm-up matches. He has not had any game-time since the Oval Test in July, where his performance was hindered by a stomach bug. Philander recovered from the illness in time to play the final Test at Old Trafford but suffered lower-back spasms on the morning of the match and had to be left off the team sheet, causing former captain Graeme Smith to launch a scathing criticism of the fast bowler.
Smith asked whether Philander's ongoing issues with his fitness merited picking him in the first place and warned him that his career was at risk of "fading away pretty quickly" unless he paid better attention to his conditioning. Philander was said to be furious with Smith's public comments and requested a meeting with Smith, which was due to take place in Cape Town post-series.
Whether that meeting has taken place is yet to be ascertained but it would seem Philander has more pressing things on his agenda. His unavailability for this round of fixtures is unlikely to sit well with new South Africa coach Ottis Gibson, who arrives in the country on Monday and has insisted all national players avail themselves for the first-class fixture ahead of the Test squad's selection.
With neither Steyn nor Philander playing, South Africa will be left with an attack of Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel - who will return from the World XI matches in Pakistan to play for the Titans - and one of Duanne Olivier or Chris Morris, who also suffered a back injury in England. The Test squad will be announced next week, after the first-class fixtures.