England opener Rory Burns will miss the Sri Lanka series in March after having surgery on ruptured ligaments in his left ankle.
Burns, 29, sustained the injury while playing football during practice before the ongoing second Test in Cape Town.
He had surgery on Monday in London and is expected to be out of action for up to four months.
The Surrey captain is aiming to return to play for the beginning of the 2020 County Championship season in April.
Keaton Jennings is the leading contender to replace Burns for the two-Test series against Sri Lanka starting on 19 March.
England have yet to decide whether to call up a replacement for Burns for the final two Tests of the current series, which South Africa lead 1-0.
National selector Ed Smith is in Cape Town and will discuss the options with head coach Chris Silverwood.
Burns, who top-scored for England with 84 in the first-Test defeat in Centurion, averages 33.75 in 15 Tests.
England have since banned playing football during practice.
Lancashire’s Jennings averages 25.19 from 17 Tests since making a century on debut in India in 2016.
Opening with Burns, he scored 233 runs at 46.60 in England’s 3-0 series win in Sri Lanka in 2018, including an unbeaten 146 in the first Test in Galle.