Number eight Pierre Spies has been ruled out of South Africa's inaugural Rugby Championship match against Argentina on Saturday because of a finger injury that requires surgery.
The experienced 27-year-old suffered the injury to his left hand last month while playing Super Rugby for the Bulls. Initial X-rays did not reveal the extent of the problem.
"However, on review and further investigation, including a CT scan and assessment by a hand specialist in Cape Town, it was found that Pierre had a fracture in the joint," Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts said in a statement on Tuesday.
"Surgical correction is needed in order to prevent permanent damage. The usual rehabilitation time for these kinds of injuries is eight to 12 weeks."
South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer said Spies would not be replaced immediately. "We have faith in the players in the squad and will consider the call-up of a possible replacement at a later stage," said Meyer.
"Losing Pierre is obviously a setback, because he is the most experienced member of our forward pack, but we will never take any risks with injured players."
Keegan Daniel, Marcell Coetzee, Willem Alberts, Jacques Potgieter and Siya Kolisi are the remaining loose forwards in the Springbok squad.
The Rugby Championship replaces the southern-hemisphere Tri-Nations and includes Argentina. Australia play New Zealand in Sydney on Saturday before South Africa take on Argentina in Cape Town later.
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