Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth is unlikely to feature much for the Stormers next year.
The young star revealed on Thursday that he will undergo surgery for an ankle injury sustained in South Africa’s 19-10 win over France last weekend.
“Going for operation on Monday,” Etzebeth tweeted, adding: “Plus-minus six months out of action.”
That means he won’t be back on the field before June and with no game time, is likely to miss South Africa’s mid-year Tests as well.
If he does return to the playing field for the final stages of the Super Rugby season in July, Etzebeth will make his return to the Bok team for the Rugby Championship starting in August.
According to a statement by the Stormers the specialist’s assessment is that Etzebeth will be out of action for a minimum of 16 to 18 weeks.
“It’s very unfortunate to again start a new Vodacom Super Rugby season without Eben Etzebeth,” Stormers coach Allister Coetzee said.
“However, it opens up an opportunity for other players to step up and take the gap in Eben’s absence.
“De Kock Steenkamp, Rynhardt Elstadt and Michael Rhodes have plenty of Super Rugby experience already, whilst our younger training squad members like Mthetheleli Fuzani, Ruan Botha and Jean Kleyn will have to step up,” added Coetzee.
“Unfortunately, a young player like Gerbrandt Grobler (ankle) will still be out of action for some time, but, of course, we have signed a Test lock with plenty of experience in the form of Manuel Carizza, who will arrive here in January 2014.”
Etzebeth, 22, has made 21 Super Rugby appearances for the Stormers since his debut in 2012, as well as winning six caps for WP.
He has also played 23 Tests for the Springboks since 2012.
Etzebeth was earlier this week named as one of the five nominees for the prestigious IRB World Player of the Year Award for 2013.
He is the youngest of the five nominees – the other four are Kieran Read and Ben Smith (both New Zealand), Leigh Halfpenny (Wales and the British & Irish Lions) and Sergio Parisse (Italy).
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer lauded Etzebeth for his contribution to South Africa in the last two seasons.
“I’ve followed his career closely since he was still at school and I’m extremely proud of Eben,” said Meyer.
“It’s almost amazing to think that he was still playing in the Varsity Cup for the University of Cape Town in 2011.
“Eben’s performances this year and in 2012 is testimony to someone who puts in a lot of hard work, is eager to learn and doesn’t shy away from a challenge. I’ve already said that I believe he can become a world great if he remains humble and keeps working hard and this nomination, in only his second year in Test rugby, underlines that.”