Howard said Wednesday that the national selection panel wants the Australian vice-captain to prove his fitness to play as an allrounder, indicating they're unlikely to consider him solely as a batsman for the second of three tests. The first test ended in a draw at the Gabba in Brisbane on Tuesday.
Watson was replaced before the Brisbane test by lefthander Rob Quiney, who scored nine runs and was forced to bowl seven overs of his part-time medium pace to help Australia get through the overs as South Africa made 450 in its first innings of the rain-affected match.
Australia coach Mickey Arthur wasn't as downbeat about Watson's prospects of playing in the second test.
"We'll see how that goes," Arthur said. "He had a bit of a run (Tuesday) and he came through that well, he's having a bowl on Friday. We'll see early next week how that's going."
There's plenty of speculation about changes in the bowling attack, with left-arm pacemen Mitch Starc and Mitchell Johnson in the mix for a recall, and the need for a genuine allrounder if Watson -- who bats in the top order and usually supplements the pace attack with his seam bowling -- is only considered as a batsman.
"We'll have to sit down and consider what we think is the best 11 going into that Adelaide test," Arthur said, "and Shane would come into a huge amount of consideration for that."