DURBAN - Key New Zealand allrounder Chris Cairns will miss the three-test cricket series against South Africa, coach David Trist confirmed last night.

Trist said Cairns would return to New Zealand after the final one-dayer in Cape Town tomorrow because the injury to his right knee was not improving.

Fellow allrounder Scott Styris will remain as his replacement.

Cairns scored an unbeaten 25 off 30 balls then took one for 29 off seven overs in yesterday's six-wicket loss. He will also play in Cape Town, but it was felt the test series would place too much stress on the injury.

"Chris is vital to our future plans and we can only be grateful for his major contributions through our African campaign," Trist said.

""His injury has been carefully managed to date, but the rigours of test cricket are such that we cannot put his future contributions at risk."

Cairns missed the three-match one-day series in Zimbabwe but helped New Zealand to win the ICC Knockout Trophy tournament in Nairobi.

It is hoped he can be ready for the home season against Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.