Johannesburg - South Africa coach Russell Domingo called Dale Steyn a "champion" bowler on Wednesday and backed the pacer to return to top form.
Domingo was speaking as South Africa's squad prepared to depart for a triangular limited-overs series in the Caribbean without their No. 1 quick bowler.
Steyn struggled with a series of injuries over the last 12 months and was rested for the tour by South Africa. Instead, he will get some match practice with Twenty20 stints for Glamorgan and in the Caribbean Premier League.
Steyn's fitness struggles raised concerns last season in South Africa that, at 32, he might be approaching the end of his career. He'll turn 33 next month.
"Dale Steyn is a champion bowler, he just hasn't played too much recently," Domingo said. "Often with players like Dale, when you write them off, that's when they become the most dangerous."
Steyn's latest injury, a right shoulder problem, forced him to miss most of the home test series loss to England at the start of the year. He played only two games in the World Twenty20, when he appeared to be missing his usual menace and hadn't fully recovered from the injury to his bowling arm.
South Africa's decision to rest Steyn for the triangular series against West Indies and Australia is part of a plan to keep him fresh for the upcoming test season. South Africa hosts New Zealand in August and then tours Australia for three tests in November. Steyn has 406 test wickets and is closing in on Shaun Pollock's South African record of 421. He could pass the mark this season.
South Africa also has a new fast-bowling star to fall back on. Domingo said there would now be a temptation to play 21-year-old speedster Kagiso Rabada in every game and every series the Proteas play.
"We need to be very careful about that," Domingo said.
The coach also had an interesting take on the importance of being the top-ranked test team after South Africa was knocked off No. 1 with that defeat to England.
"When you're number one, it's important. When you're not, it's not," Domingo said.
South Africa won't have Steyn in the Caribbean but will have captain AB de Villiers following some sensational batting performances in the IPL. De Villiers is expected to join the South African squad after Sunday's IPL final and before the Proteas' first game against West Indies in Guyana next Friday.