Cape Town - Duane Vermeulen's return to the Western Province Currie Cup side will be delayed after the team's medical staff established that his knee needs more healing time than initially anticipated.
Vermeulen suffered a terrible knee injury in June when he was strongly in the running for a place in the Springboks' World Cup squad.
Allister Coetzee, the Province head coach, said that Vermeulen's knee "hasn't quite settled" after the operation in June.
Initially, it was anticipated that Vermeulen could return about eight rounds into the competition, but Coetzee feels that he could be back on the training grounds in about three weeks' time.
Another loose forward Pieter Louw will also be out in the cold for at least the next three weeks after suffering an injury to the rib cage against the Lions two weeks ago. "At first it looked like Pieter bruised his ribs but scans show that he's done a light fracture," said Coetzee. "It's unlikely that he'll be back for some time, perhaps three weeks on the sidelines."
Another loosie on the 'walking wounded' list is Province flank Siya Kolisi with a hamstring injury, which requires "conservative treatment" over the next few days.
Among the backline, centre Tim Whitehead did his knee ligaments in last Friday's match against the Pumas in Witbank, but fortunately the injury will not require corrective surgery.
The Witbank outing failed to yield a bonus-point win for the 'Streeptruie' but Coetzee was pleased with the way his youthful side performed.
"Marcel Brache (substitute centre) stood his ground well, and brought off a few line breaks when he came off the bench," said Coetzee. "There's a great opportunity for him (to get into the starting XV).
"This group of backs are attack-minded, exciting players but as good they were their rounding off was disappointing.
"We are happy where we are in terms of this team's development, and we're second on the log
"We wanted a bonus point but there can be no excuses because we had plenty of opportunities, at this stage we need to make sure we capitalise on opportunities, be patient and make good decisions."
This weekend, Province will again be on the road for a match against the in-form Griquas at GWK Park, Kimberley, where a few days ago they stopped the high-riding Cheetahs in their tracks with a surprise 23-20 victory.