Cape Town - Springbok flank Marcell Coetzee looks set to be unavailable for the Springboks for the at least the next two years.
This comes after Coetzee suffered a knee injury playing for his Irish club Ulster at the weekend.
Coetzee, 25, lasted just 19 minutes of his side's 68-21 Pro12 win over Zebre before he hobbled off.
He had only made his debut for Ulster last month despite the new season having started in September last year. That was because of a knee injury that kept him out for most of 2016 and cut short his final Super Rugby season with the Sharks.
It is believed Coetzee has hurt the same knee and according to BBC Sport, he will have exploratory surgery to find out how serious the latest injury is.
Reliable sources however told Netwerk24 that Coetzee will be sidelined for at least nine months.
The news will not be welcomed in the Springbok camp.
Coetzee currently boasts 28 Test caps, but given SA Rugby's new overseas-based player policy, he would have to play in all three Tests against France in June to be considered for Bok selection beyond that series and up until 2019.
With Coetzee now set to miss the France series, he will only be available for Springbok selection in 2019 - assuming he doesn't break his contract with Ulster and return to South Africa.
The new SA Rugby policy states that only overseas-based Springboks with more than 30 Test caps will be eligible for selection in future.
That new policy starts on July 1, but the Bok coach will still be able to select whoever he wants in a World Cup year.