Springboks centre Francois Steyn has been ruled out for the rest of the year and fullback Zane Kirchner is also in doubt for this week's clash with the All Blacks in Soweto.
Steyn sat out last week's commanding victory over Australia after injuring his ankle at training. It was hoped he would return for the All Blacks this week, but the prognosis was worse than first feared with surgery now required.
The 25-year-old's injury is a major blow. Steyn was in top form for the Sharks this year after retuning from French club Racing Metro mid-season.
The Boks will miss his potent midfield bursts, staunch defence and prodigious long-range goal-kicking.
Rookie Lions centre Jaco Taute, who made a solid debut against the Wallabies in Pretoria, is likely to retain his place and mark the experienced Conrad Smith.
"We made the decision to have the surgery, to get in there and clean it out properly," Springboks doctor Craig Roberts said of Steyn. "He will be out for three months, which is a blow in terms of the coming game [against the All Blacks] and the end-of-year tour, but we felt it's a good decision in the long-term.
"Frans is a youngster and can play 60 more tests if we manage him well. This is the right thing to do. We will get him into good shape before the 2013 season, and he will enjoy a full pre-season programme."
Kirchner scored two tries in the 31-8 rout of Australia but he did not train today. The Bulls fullback bruised his hip on Wallabies utility Adam Ashley-Cooper's head while claiming his brace.
Ashley-Cooper was knocked out as a result of the heavy collision.
Kirchner will be assessed over the next two days. If he fails to recover, Sharks star Patrick Lambie will wear the No 15 jersey and add another attacking dimension to the Boks.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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