After rocketing up the global ranks in recent years, consistently finishing among the top five countries at major international championships, the South African team are expected to return to the back seat and make way for the traditional powerhouses of the sport at the IAAF World Championships starting in Doha next week.
Already without injured 400m title holder Wayde van Niekerk and 800m world champion Caster Semenya, the national federation unveiled an under-strength squad on Tuesday, just one day after it was revealed that 100m sprinter Carina Horn would be sidelined from the showpiece on doping charges.
The 31-member SA team were also missing world junior 400m hurdles champion Soks Zazini, who had apparently joined Van Niekerk on the injury list.
In their absence, the squad featured a small group of medal contenders including long jumpers Luvo Manyonga and Ruswahl Samaai, who finished first and third respectively at the 2017 World Championships in London, and sprint king Akani Simbine, who was set to anchor a powerful 4x100m relay team who were among the podium favourites.
With three-time world champion Semenya suspended from middle-distance races while fighting international gender rules in court, and national 100m record holder Horn being handed a temporary ban on doping charges, the national squad included only five women.
And while javelin throw star Sunette Viljoen was among them, she had struggled to find her best form this year and was expected to face an uphill battle against the global elite.
On the road, the men’s marathon team was set to be led by in-form athlete Stephen Mokoka, but one of the four men included in the squad was likely to be dropped ahead of the event, with Athletics SA seemingly over-stepping its limits in terms of team selection.
Mokoka was selected alongside Desmond Mokgobu, Benedict Moeng and David Manja, but according to standard rules of the biennial spectacle, they were restricted to three men and three women in each discipline and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) was likely to reject the full quartet.
Should one member of the marathon team be turned away, as was the case when ASA entered too many marathon athletes at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing, the final national team would consist of 30 individuals.