Johannesburg - Springbok front-rower Tendai Mtawarira has been ruled out for three months with an ankle injury, the Sharks confirmed on Saturday.
The big prop cracked the fibia bone in his right ankle during training on Friday.
He fell awkwardly after a tackle by captain Keegan Daniel and will now undergo surgery to correct the problem.
The Sharks kick off their Super Rugby season against the Bulls on February 24, so Mtawarira is in line to miss at least the first eight matches.
“Obviously it is a blow,” coach John Plumtree told the Independent on Saturday.
“He is a seasoned Springbok and a big part of our plans.”
The news is a massive blow for the Durban franchise, who recently allowed prop Eugene van Staden to join French club Biarritz on a permanent basis.