The Titans will go into their final, must-win Sunfoil match against the Knights on Thursday, but there is no place for Dale Steyn in their squad.
That leaves the Proteas fast bowler without an opportunity to prove his fitness and make himself available for the fourth Test against Australia, starting 30 March, unless he can get a run-out for the Northerns, who are playing a Sunfoil three-day match against Boland at Paarl.
If he does not get a chance in the fourth Test, needing just three wickets to break Shaun Pollock’s record of 421, the question will be, will he ever get another?
South Africa travel to Sri Lanka in August, two months after his 35th birthday. There is a Test scheduled against Zimbabwe in South Africa in October, but by that time the Proteas will have had a settled pace attack which has been through two tough series: India and Australia.
Steyn has been battling injuries since wrenching his shoulder in the first Test against Australia in November 2016. He bowled 18 overs in five Twenty20 matches for the Titans, as well as 12 overs in a low-key appearance for an Invitation XI against the touring Zimbabweans in December.
Somewhat untried, he was included in the pace attack in the first Test against India but pulled up with a bruised left heel.
He has often said he was back on track for a return, but added that it was taking him time to recover after each session.
‘I cannot imagine another Test where I need to retire halfway through it because my foot is bruised,’ Steyn told the media last week. ‘I cannot let my teammates down, or my country. It has happened a couple of times now.
‘As a fast bowler, I need to land on my front foot. Putting eight or nine times my body weight on that foot… it can only handle so much.’
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