Theunis de Bruyn, a top-order batsman and current captain of the Knights franchise, was named as the only new cap in South Africa's 13-man squad for the first two Tests against Sri Lanka, which start on Boxing Day. De Bruyn was added as the reserve batsman in place of Rilee Rossouw, who traveled with the squad to Australia but is nursing a foot injury.
South Africa could also not consider Morne Morkel - yet to recover from a back injury that has kept him out for all but one first-class match since the CPL - Dale Steyn or AB de Villiers in their squad. Left-arm seamer Wayne Parnell has recovered from a rib injury sustained during the one-day series against Australia in October to return to the squad but there is no room for reserve wicketkeeper Dane Vilas or left-arm wristspinner Tabraiz Shamsi. Keshav Maharaj has been included as the lone specialist spinner. Dwaine Pretorius, who was called up when Steyn was injured in Australia, is also not part of the squad.
Stephen Cook, who scored a century in the Adelaide Test after a poor tour of Australia, has been retained to open the batting with Dean Elgar and the rest of South Africa's line-up takes on familiar look. Batting coach Neil McKenzie has tipped the out-of-form Hashim Amla to turn things around in this series while JP Duminy and Temba Bavuma will make up a top six headlined by new Test captain Faf du Plessis.
Should de Bruyn be needed, he brings fine form with him. The right-hander, who played for South Africa at the 2012 Under-19 World Cup and began his career with Titans, was eighth on last season's first-class run charts and is third this season, with 423 runs at 60.42. He was preferred over Colin Ackermann - who has signed as a non-overseas player for Leicestershire from next season - and Khaya Zondo, who sits second on the run charts.
Parnell's inclusion is more curious. He has not played a first-class match this season but has turned out for the Cobras in their last seven T20 matches. Parnell last played a Test for South Africa in February 2014, against Australia, but was included in the squad that played New Zealand in August. He did not play either of the two Tests and is likely to act as back-up to a pace attack that will comprise Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Kyle Abbott.
South Africa's pace pack takes on a new look from the three prongs of old - Steyn, Morkel and Philander - and this squad will doubtless raise questions about Morkel's future. He suffered a bulging disc in his back earlier in the year and has been struggling to return to full fitness since then. Morkel played one first-class match for his franchise, Titans, and in all three of South Africa's practice matches in Australia but was not cleared to play a Test. After the first Test in Perth, South African team management said Morkel was "90-95% fit."
Since the end of that series, Morkel was due to play for Titans in the T20 competition but has been unavailable for selection while his injury continues to be monitored. Unlike de Villiers, who hopes to be fit for the ODIs against Sri Lanka mid-January and Steyn, who is targeting June 2017 for a comeback, there is no word on when Morkel may take the field again.
South Africa Test squad: Faf du Plessis (capt), Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Stephen Cook, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Dean Elgar, Keshav Maharaj, Wayne Parnell, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada.