Telford Vice in Cape Town
VERNON Philander's problem hamstring could force South Africa to change their triumphant combination ahead of the second cricket test against New Zealand, starting at St George's Park in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
But, considering the Proteas' weak opposition, the peerless quality of the rest of their attack, and the fact that Rory Kleinveldt is in the squad, even the omission of a key player like Philander will not put a significant dent in the home side's chances of winning the series 2-0.
Philander's match haul of 7-83 in the first test at Newlands – five of them taken for just seven runs in the first innings – made him the man-of-the-match.
However, he was not on the field on Friday when South Africa completed their thrashing of the Black Caps by an innings and 27 runs.
Philander was taken off as precaution with what looks like a recurrence of the left hamstring strain that he suffered while playing for the Cobras.
"We're back to square one now," Proteas team manager Mohammed Moosajee said. "He had seven to 10 days to recover from the problem the first time, and that's what we will have to do again.
"He's 50-50 at this stage. We'll know more early this week."
Moosajee said Philander's injury would have been aggravated when he planted his front leg in the footholes on the crease during his delivery stride.
Relieved though they will be if Philander does not make the grade, the New Zealanders – who were dismissed for 45 in their first innings at Newlands – know their problems do not start and end with him.
The Proteas know that, too. They would prefer Philander to be fit, but they have more than enough firepower to make do without him against the Kiwis.
In fact, ensuring his fitness for what promises to be a tougher assignment against Pakistan later this month must be the higher priority.
Kleinveldt showed what he was made of in Australia in November and is an adequate replacement. He came back from an ordinary test debut in Brisbane, where he took 0-97 in 21 overs on a pitch not worthy of the occasion, to knock over the Aussies' top order of Ed Cowan, David Warner and Rob Quiney in the second innings in Adelaide.
If Kleinveldt is again an injury replacement for Philander in Port Elizabeth, this time he should find out earlier than he did in Adelaide – soon after breakfast on the first morning.
Kleinveldt has played two first-class matches for the Cobras against the Warriors at St George's Park.
In 2007-08, he took 1-29 and 2-29. Philander claimed 5-40 and 1-11 in the same game. Philander did not play in the same fixture in 2009-10, when Kleinveldt took 4-77 and 0-24.