Pretoria - The Vodacom Bulls were dealt a setback when one of their senior players - Springbok Deon Stegmann - was ruled out of action for nine weeks because of an ankle injury.
Stegmann will undergo an operation on Monday to repair the damage to the ankle injury and would out for up to nine weeks.
This is the second blow to the Vodacom Bulls after the news that Springbok Handre Pollard will miss the start of the Vodacom Super Rugby season with a shoulder injury.
Pollard is currently in week two of a four week rehabilitation programme whereafter his situation will be reassessed and a better idea of the severity of the injury will be known.
But Stegmann in particular is a big blow as the Bulls have few senior players in a very youthful squad and would have needed his leadership skills and experience as the season goes on.
There was some good news though, as both flanker Roelof Smit and hooker Callie Visagie are set to rejoin the team after recovering from their injuries.
Smit, who is likely to be the replacement for Stegmann while he recovers from injury, has recovered from a wrist injury that saw him on the sidelines for six months while Visagie has recovered from an operation on his toe in December.
Winger Duncan Matthews will be out for another three weeks with a knee strain.
The Bulls are set to name their squad to travel to Zimbabwe in the next few days for next weekend's pre-season outing against the Cheetahs in Harare.
Read the story on SuperSport.com.