South Africa fast bowler Anrich Nortje has been ruled out of the upcoming three-match Test series against India due to a "persistent" hip injury, the Cricket South Africa (CSA) confirmed on Tuesday.
The 28-year old has not bowled since the Men's T20 World Cup in November, and is still struggling with the niggle. He does not have sufficient bowling loads under his belt to be cleared to play.
"Anrich Nortje has been ruled out of the 3-match #BetwayTestSeries due to a persistent injury," said CSA in a tweet.
The CSA also said that no replacement would be brought in for Nortje, who has been South Africa's premier fast bowler across formats in recent times.
The right-arm pacer's absence is a massive blow to South Africa as he is their leading bowler in Tests this year. Nortje has taken 25 wickets from five Tests at 20.76, six ahead of his team-mate, Keshav Maharaj.
Nortje last represented his country in Test cricket in the West Indies earlier this year in June. He picked eight wickets across two Test matches on the tour and starred in a 2-0 series win for the visitors.
His absence against India could pave an international comeback for Duanne Olivier who last played a Test for South Africa in 2019. Olivier, with 10 Test caps, returned to South Africa earlier this year after a Kolpak stint and has been the leading wicket-taker in the domestic first-class competition with 28 wickets at an average of 11.14.
Olivier is likely to bowl alongside Kagiso Rabada and one of Lungi Ngidi. uncapped left-armer Marco Jansen. Other options include Beuran Hendricks, who has one Test to his name, and Glenton Stuurman and Sisanda Magala, both of whom are uncapped.
The three-match series starts on Boxing Day and both teams have started their final preparations.
Revised Squad: Dean Elgar (captain), Temba Bavuma (vice-captain), Quinton de Kock (wicketkeeper), Kagiso Rabada, Sarel Erwee, Beuran Hendricks, George Linde, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi, Aiden Markram, Wiaan Mulder, Keegan Petersen, Rassie van der Dussen, Kyle Verreynne, Marco Jansen, Glenton Stuurman, Prenelan Subrayen, Sisanda Magala, Ryan Rickelton, Duanne Olivier.