The Free State Cheetahs started preparations for round two of their battle with the Eastern Province Kings facing a new injury crisis.
Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie revealed on Monday that flank Pieter Labuschagne has been added to the extraordinary list of loose forwards ruled out for the season.
The Cheetahs, who won the first round of their promotion-relegation series with the Kings by a 39-point (53-14) margin, require just one point on the standings to retain their Currie Cup status.
However, Labuschagne has been ruled out of the trip to Port Elizabeth on Friday, while Kings-bound centre Andries Strauss and Perth-bound flyhalf Sias Ebersohn are also doubtful starters.
“Pieter [Labuschagne] injured ligaments in his ankle [against the Kings last Friday] and has been ruled out for six weeks, so he is obviously not available this week,” Fourie told this website.
“Andries [Strauss] has concussion and also injured his shoulder.
“He will visit a specialist on Tuesday, so the chances are slim of him being available.
“Sias [Ebersohn] also has slight concussion and he has to go through the IRB’s return to play protocols [cognitive tests]. We will only know later in the week if he will be available.”
Fourie admitted the latest batch of injuries are “not ideal”, but the 39-point buffer has given them some breathing space.
“It [the points advantage] helps, but we have been battered by injuries so much this season that we half expected it [another batch of injuries].
“It does help to have that buffer, knowing that if we get just one point [against the Kings] in Port Elizabeth we stay in the Currie Cup competition.
“We made life easier for ourselves [with the 53-14] win this past weekend.”
However, the growing injury list – that features Springboks Juan Smith (he has not played at all this year), Heinrich Brussow and Lucas Floors, as well as Frans Viljoen, Johannes Prinsloo and now Labuschagne – has left them with a tricky selection poser ahead of the encounter with the Kings.
“We don’t have many [loose forward] options left,” Fourie told this website, adding: “We brought some players from the Under-21 ranks to train with us today [Monday].
“The options are to move Francois Uys back to flank and select another lock, or to start with Davon Raubenheimer and bring on of the Under-21 players onto the bench.
“We have run out of [loose forward] resources.”