The world champion Springboks will be without their inspirational skipper for the upcoming Rugby Championship in Australia.
Siya Kolisi, who led South Africa to World Cup glory in Japan last year, is tipped to be left at home for the six-week tournament.
South Africa's The Sunday Times reports the 'Boks are prepared to sacrifice results to develop for the future, while there is also concern their elite players will be underdone physically.
"The move to take a younger team and leave behind grizzled men who helped win the Rugby World Cup last year is largely based on the premise that the Springboks will be on a hiding to nothing downunder," the report says.
Centre Lukhanyo Am is expected to be named captain of a side that could enter the tournament off just a couple of domestic hitouts, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause havoc in South Africa.
Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and new coach Jacques Nienaber are said to have agreed on the make-up of the side.
"They’ll take a younger group, with Lukhanyo Am in the running to be captain, and they’ll look at guys like Curwin Bosch, Aphelele Fassi and a guy like Sanele Nohamba is certainly not out of the running,” a source tells The Sunday Times.
Nienaber had already expressed concerns around player welfare, both physical and mental, given they will travel halfway around the world, leaving their families for almost three months.
Former skipper Jean de Villiers believes Am is an excellent choice as a makeshift captain, describing him as the best defensive back in world rugby.
"He's on an absolute high at the moment," de Villiers tells ESPN. "What he has achieved over the last year is very special.
"He has improved with every game that he's played and there aren't any questions about his abilities.
"Captaincy is not only about deciding whether to kick for posts or go to the corner. It's also not driven by the individual only, you need to have the support of your senior teammates and you need the rest of the team to follow you.
"Lukhanyo is certainly getting that right at the moment and the results show, so credit to him for that".
The tournament is scheduled for October and November, although doubt remains over Argentina's participation, after several players and coaching staff recently tested positive for coronavirus.