Durban - The Stormers have received some bad news ahead of the 2019 Super Rugby season with Steve Kitshoff's hamstring injury worse than initially feared.
Always a major doubt for Saturday's tournament opener against the Bulls at Loftus after picking up the injury in a pre-season clash against Boland this past weekend, Kitshoff now faces a minimum of four weeks out.
That was confirmed by coach Robbie Fleck shortly after announcing his side for Saturday's fixture at Loftus.
"The outcome with him and his injury is that is still four to six weeks," Fleck said.
"He took a cleanout against Boland and did his hamstring. It's a grade two, so the aim is for him to return for the tour.
"If we get him for the Jaguares game that would be a bonus, but it's likely that we will only get him for the tour."
The tour that Fleck is referring to is his side's Australian trip that will see them take on the Hurricanes, Blues, Reds and Rebels between March 23 and April 12.
The Stormers host the Jaguares on March 15 in their last match before that tour.
It is a massive blow to Fleck ahead of a season in which the Stormers are desperate to make a play deep into the competition.
Fleck had said just a few weeks ago that pre-season this year had been the best he had experienced as Stormers coach in terms of having players fit, but Kitshoff is not the only one who has been ruled out of the Bulls clash.
Tighthead prop Frans Malherbe, loose forward Juarno Augustus, wing Sergeal Petersen and lock Cobus Wiese were all not considered.
"Frans took a shot to the knee and he has a haematoma. He'll only be out for this weekend and will be ready for next weekend.
"Juarno has done his ankle and looks to be seven to 10 days, but he will also likely be available for next weekend.
"We've been really looking good on the injury front. Obviously Eben (Etzebeth, back) is still out, but he trained pretty well today and will hopefully be back in the next two weeks.
"It's been just in the last couple of days that these injuries have come about."
"It's part and parcel of the game and part of playing warm-up games is the threat of injuries. It's unfortunate about Kitshie, but the good news is he should be ready by tour."
There are, of course, able replacements in the front row for both Kitshoff and Malherbe.
Ali Vermaak, one of the form props in the Currie Cup last year, will wear the No 1 jersey while the highly-rated Springbok Wilco Louw starts at tighthead.
There is, however, some good news for Fleck on the injury front as flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis, who has had a nightmarish two seasons with groin and abdomen trouble, is named on the bench.
"He's looking good. He's had a tough couple of months with all of the injuries and operations," Fleck said.
"It only makes him stronger as a character. He brings a bit of an edge and a bite. I don't think the forwards enjoy him barking orders at them, but that's what he's good at.
"He had a nice cameo against Boland. We've just got to build his confidence and he needs game time. We'll manage that between him and Damian Willemse. It's nice to have him back in the mix and he will certainly give him a little run on Saturday."
Kick-off is at 17:15.
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Jessie Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Lood de Jager (captain), 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Substitutes: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Eli Snyman, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Dylan Sage
15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 JJ Engelbrecht, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 SP Marais, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ali Vermaak
Substitutes: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Kobus van Dyk, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Dan du Plessis