South Africa pacer Vernon Philander has been ruled out of the Boxing Day Test against Pakistan after sustaining a hairline fracture on his right thumb.
The 33-year-old had recently returned to action in the early season rounds of domestic four-day cricket and for Durban Heat in the Mzansi Super League following a rehabilitation for a recurring ankle injury.
"I really don't even want to think about what would happen should there be another injury," said South Africa coach Ottis Gibson.
With Lungi Ngidi already ruled out till February with a knee injury, South Africa are left with only three frontline seamers in Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Duanne Olivier.
"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,” Gibson added.
“We've seen how Dale's been going. 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 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."