Selection a 'good nightmare' for SA
Selection is likely to be South Africa's biggest challenge ahead of their one-off day-night Test against Zimbabwe, starting at St George's Park on Tuesday.
Zimbabwe are unlikely to stretch the home side but South Africa, ranked second in Test cricket, will want to establish their best XI in this four-day Test ahead of a three-match series against India, starting in Cape Town on January 5.
With the return of AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn after long absences from Test cricket, and with all South Africa's front-line fast bowlers fit for the first time in more than a year, coach Ottis Gibson described the selection issue as "a good nightmare".
"India are the number one team in the world at the moment and we know we need to be at our best if we are going to compete with them and beat them, which is our ultimate goal," said Gibson.
The situation is complicated by South Africa's unique racial balancing act, with Cricket South Africa committed to having an average of six players of colour, including two black Africans, in their starting teams.
Three black Africans - batsman Temba Bavuma, all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo and fast bowler Kagiso Rabada - played in South Africa's most recent Test matches, two one-sided encounters against Bangladesh.
But with batsman De Villiers and fast bowlers Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel back in the mix, only Rabada of the three seems guaranteed to start in what should be another lop-sided contest.
Assuming captain Faf du Plessis is passed fit after recovering from shoulder surgery, it will be difficult to fit Bavuma into the batting line-up, while Phehlukwayo's medium-pace is unlikely to be required.