Wellington - The Stormers and Crusaders will be without star flyhalves Peter Grant and Dan Carter when they meet at Cape Town in the weekend's 12th round of Vodacpm Super Rugby.
Grant was the tournament's leading point-scorer with 100 points until the ninth round when he suffered a knee injury in training. His place will be filled on Saturday by youngster Lionel Cronje in the Stormers line-up, which will also be without Springboks winger Bryan Habana, who has a rib injury.
The Crusaders have left Carter out of their lineup for the match as the All Blacks No 10 slowly recovers from a hamstring injury. The injury concerns of both teams reflect the wider influence on injuries two-thirds of the way through the tournament's regular season.
The Stormers lead the South African conference and are second overall on the Super Rugby table with 42 points - one behind the Blues - while the Crusaders are second in the New Zealand conference and fourth overall with 40 points.
All Blacks backrower Kieran Read will return to the Crusaders' starting line-up for Saturday's match but coach Todd Blackadder said it was still too early for Carter to return.
"Dan's done everything right, but to put him out there this weekend we'd probably be compromising him," he said. "We just want him to get through and train all week with the team and hopefully be available for selection next week."
Carter last played for the Crusaders against the Sharks at Twickenham in London on March 27 but Blackadder said his team was coping in the All Blacks' absence.
"We've been without Dan Carter for the last three weeks and Mat Berquist's done a great job . . . and I see the Stormers' flyhalf (Grant) hasn't been available either. This is all part of Super rugby, really. Very rarely do you get to put your best 15 out on the park at any given time."
Blackadder summed up a problem faced by many teams during 18 regular-season rounds as they try to cope with injuries while keeping pace with rivals in an increasingly tight playoff race.
The Blues have lost All Blacks fullback Isaia Toeava for the rest of the season with a hip injury and will be without fellow All Black Luke McAlister when they play the Hurricanes on Friday.
Toeava's strong bid for a place in New Zealand's World Cup squad has been set back by the recurrence of a stress fracture which will keep him out of rugby for at least eight weeks.
Blues coach Pat Lam said the management of injuries was becoming a major issue for his and other teams.
"We had 32 in our squad at the beginning of the year, and out of that 32 we've only got 20 available," he said. "When you consider three of those are halfbacks and three of those are hookers, we've only really got 18."
The Hurricanes have been forced to play flyhalf Dan Kirkpatrick at inside center as they cope with an epidemic of injuries to midfielders. All Blacks centres Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu are both out of action with facial fractures while Charlie Ngatai, who replaced Nonu in last weekend's match against the Reds, has a broken leg.
The Reds have had positive injury news and are able to recall Wallaby props James Slipper and Ben Daley, and winger Digby Ioane for Friday's derby clash with the Melbourne Rebels. Forwards Saia Faingaa, Rob Simmons and Radike Samo and center Anthony Faingaa also return to the Reds starting lineup, shoring up the team which lost 28-26 to the Hurricanes last weekend.
Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau has been forced out of the Waratahs team which will play the Force on Saturday in another Australian derby. Polota-Nau suffered a slight head injury in the Waratahs' 28-9 win over the Rebels in round 11 and will be replaced by John Ulugia.
The Waratahs beat the Force 31-3 in round eight but coach Chris Hickey said that was no guarantee of victory on Saturday.
"Super rugby is the toughest competition in the world and you certainly can't take anything for granted, " he said. "They've got a number of players back and have had a couple of wins since we last played them so the challenge is there for us this weekend."
All Blacks wing Sitiveni Sivivatu, who has been sidelined with a hamstring injury, is likely to return to the Chiefs lineup for their derby match on Saturday against the Highlanders.
"It's a must-win for us," Chiefs coach Ian Foster said. "It's actually a nice game to come back to in terms of, if we're going to have any chance (of making the playoffs) we need to beat them."
The Highlanders have lost former All Blacks flyhalves Colin Slade and Tony Brown to injuries this season, leaving Robbie Robinson in the No 10 jersey for the match at Hamilton.
Matt Giteau will move from centre to flyhalf when the Brumbies play the Sharks in Durban. The Sharks have lost captain John Smit for two weeks with a calf muscle strain.