Rudolph has had his chance
JACQUES Rudolph could well be the nicest man to play cricket. He is engaging, humble, intelligent and a person most would be happy to call their friend. We all know it is difficult to say a word against a man like that but it must be said: he is in line to be dropped from the Test team.
After failing to take his opportunity as an opener - a spot he deserved at the time - he was given a second chance at No6. By failing there as well, he must know what's coming.
The runs Rudolph has made in that position include two half centuries and a hundred, but they all came when he was under no pressure. When the line-up as a whole has been unsuccessful, so has Rudolph.
Worryingly, a pattern has developed which exposes his weakness. In five of his last six Test innings Rudolph was dismissed by an offspinner.
Twice that bowler was Kevin Pietersen. His contribution overall has been minimal and has made the seven batsmen strategy seem nothing more than a ruse to hide an underperforming player.
South Africa's line-up looks formidable with Vernon Philander, a capable bowling all-rounder, at No8, but the reality is that after Jacques Kallis the opposition might consider themselves through.
AB de Villiers' inability to convert starts since taking the gloves and Rudolph's form are both weak links and, unfortunate as it is, JP Duminy's injury has given them an opportunity to correct both.
Faf du Plessis is a ready-made replacement for Duminy, especially because he also bowls. With conventional thinking being that no team should need seven batsmen (if six cannot do the job, surely a seventh will not help?), a specialist wicketkeeper could be brought in to ease the burden on De Villiers.
It is no secret that I am a backer of Thami Tsolekile. As the best gloveman in the country and a batsman capable of holding his own, his second coming is overdue. He also gives the selectors an opportunity to correct their disgraceful record of not having had a black African in the team since Gary Kirsten took over.
Some may look at the second part of that rationale as justifying a quota system, but it is not. If capable players of colour are not being chosen, questions must be asked.
Makhaya Ntini asked the boldest one. He told The Times he believed Tsolekile was not playing because of his race.
The administration have been handed the chance to show that is not true. Conversely, Ntini may believe Rudolph is being persisted with for the wrong reasons.
Rudolph came to Australia knowing he was under scrutiny, but has conducted himself in his usual impeccable way.
Never tetchy, nor without time to talk to anyone, Rudolph has remained one of the best in the game.
But if that does not translate into something tangible on the field, those qualities may not matter at all.