WELLINGTON (Reuters) - South Africa's Quinton de Kock has been cleared to play the third test against New Zealand in Hamilton after passing a late fitness test on Friday.
The 24-year-old wicketkeeper injured the index finger on his right hand while fielding in South Africa's eight-wicket win in the second test in Wellington and underwent scans earlier this week.
He missed training on Wednesday and Thursday and while scans determined the finger was not broken, he had damaged tendons.
De Kock trained on Friday with strapping and a protective splint and South Africa captain Faf du Plessis said as far as he was concerned the aggressive batsman was too important to leave out for the series-deciding match starting on Saturday.
"It's a big game. Quinton is someone who you don't just replace. From my side, I am trying to have Quinton in my team all the time," du Plessis told reporters in Hamilton.
"He has had problems with his fingers for quite a while. It's part of being a keeper. It's never nice to catch balls on the fingertips all the time and it's been painful for him for a while.
"Maybe the cold New Zealand conditions make it worse. It's hurting for him a bit more now but because it's a big game, resting him for someone else is not an option."
New Zealand need to win the Seddon Park match to level the three-match series at 1-1 but have been hampered by the loss of three pivotal players.
Batsman Ross Taylor, who missed the second test with a torn calf, is again unavailable, while the pace-bowling duo of Tim Southee (hamstring) and Trent Boult (groin) were ruled out in the last 24 hours.
Du Plessis said the loss of all three would be tough to overcome for the hosts and his team would be doing their best to exploit their absence and put pressure on Kane Williamson's side.
"It's a huge blow," du Plessis said. "I always take reference to our own team - if we lose guys like them in our side, it will be a huge loss.
"You don't just replace that in test cricket. But we know whoever comes in can do a job for the day and we have to respect that.
"We are trying to put as much pressure as we can on New Zealand and... if we do that, hopefully it will be easier but it's never a guarantee."
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)