Temba Bavuma is fit but will not play in the second Test against England at Newlands on Friday, captain Faf du Plessis has confirmed.
It is unsurprising, given the performance of Rassie van der Dussen in his debut during the first Test at Centurion last week.
Van der Dussen, who made 51 in the second innings of that 107-run victory, is set to enjoy an extended run in the Test side.
It does raise more questions over the national side’s commitment to transformation and fielding players of colour, but Du Plessis said on the eve of the Cape Town Test that the priority for the Proteas presently was to raise the bar in terms of performance.
“We don’t see colour and I think it’s important that people understand that. Opportunity is very important … opportunity for any colour,” said Du Plessis.
“Temba will be the first guy to acknowledge that he was given a fair opportunity and we can’t point any fingers at that. It’s important for the good of the game that we start producing good cricketers. For me, the colour is irrelevant.
“There will be things in place and people in place to make sure that we keep producing players of all different colours, but for right now what we need to do is win Test matches and games of cricket. We need to raise the level of performance for all of us and if we do that, then naturally the other things will fall into place.”
Coach Mark Boucher had said after the Centurion Test that he would have no hesitation playing Bavuma should the opportunity arise and that the 29-year-old Lions man was working hard on his game with batting coach Jacques Kallis.
Bavuma is now likely to be released to play for the Lions against the Knights in the Four-Day Franchise series with that fixture starting on Monday.
“We feel it’s the right thing to do to stick with Rassie. Any player needs a bit of time to get a bit of confidence with an extended run, with runs or no runs in the first Test,” Du Plessis said, adding that opener Pieter Malan would come in for the injured Aiden Markram.
According to Du Plessis, Bavuma understands the decision and his role in the current set-up.
“Temba is on board. I think in general what we’re trying to achieve as a batting unit is to raise our bar of standards a little bit higher,” he said.
“That includes all of us to try and make sure that we push our performances from a run-scoring point of view so that there is a bit of a higher ceiling for all of us.
“He is on board with the process we have now to try and get guys to score big runs.
“If you’re not finding yourself starting now in the Test team it is about weight of runs. Unfortunately, Temba was injured before the start of the series, but it was a chatting point even before the start of the series.
“It’s about finding guys that are knocking on the door all the time to push us guys in the team to make sure that we lift our performances.
“Temba is an agreement of that and also that his performances over the last weight in terms of a weight of runs possibly wasn’t where it needed to be. Weight of runs will be the way back into the team, as it will be for everyone.”
Bavuma has played 39 Test matches since making his debut back in 2014 and he currently boasts an average of 31.24.
Du Plessis added that Bavuma’s performances in white-ball cricket after the last two seasons could see him included in the shorter formats for the Proteas.