Ashes incumbent George Bailey has been dropped for Australia’s upcoming tour of South Africa, replaced in the 15-man squad by WA batsman Shaun Marsh.
Fast bowlers James Pattinson and Jackson Bird have also been drafted in while Nathan Coulter-Nile drops out.
The move opens the door for either Marsh, James Faulkner or Tasmanian top-order batsman Alex Doolan to fill either the three or six positions for the three-Test tour.
It was speculated before the decision that a resurgent Phil Hughes would return to the squad, but selectors opted for Marsh, who has been in strong limited overs form.
Chairman of selectors John Inverarity admits the move “was a difficult decision, but on this occasion we felt Alex and Shaun have games that are well suited to facing South Africa in South Africa.
“We consider that both are strong players of pace bowling which is important given the strength of South Africa’s attack.
“Alex was on standby for the recent fifth Test in Sydney and scored a most impressive 165 not out against South Africa for Australia A last season.
“Shaun is a talented batsman who is striking the ball very well at the moment. He has the technique and potential to do well.
“On this occasion these two batsmen were preferred to Phillip Hughes who we feel is best suited to a top order position. Phillip remains a highly regarded batsman whose time will come.”
Inverarity said Pattinson “is regaining fitness and form” and “at his best he is a fine Test match bowler.”
“Jackson Bird shaded out Nathan Coulter-Nile for the final bowling position and each of these bowlers is showing encouraging form.”
Inverarity praised Bailey’s contribution to the 5-0 sweep over England in the return Ashes series in Australia, but was adamant he wasn’t the man to take on a South African attack widely considered to be the best in the world.
“I think George’s contribution to the Ashes victory was very significant,” Inverarity said.
“He played an integral role there. It was a wonderful Ashes series and the 11 players knitted together really well and they were a very convincing unit.
“But going to South Africa, we think that George is less suited there against their attack and we’ve left him out and bolstered the batting with Alex Doolan and Shaun Marsh.”
Australia Test squad for South Africa: Michael Clarke (c), Brad Haddin (vc), Jackson Bird, Alex Doolan, James Faulkner, Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson, Shaun Marsh, Nathan Lyon, James Pattinson, Chris Rogers, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, David Warner, Shane Watson.