The Sharks were dealt a cruel blow in the build-up top their Super Rugby encounter with the Reds on Saturday.
Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit has been ruled out of the Round Five clash, following a training ground mishap on Thursday.
The 21-year-old second row forward was initially named in the Sharks’ starting XV, but Director of Rugby Jake White told a media briefing later in the day that he took a blow to the knee at training.
The Sharks are still waiting on scan results to determine the severity of the injury.
Stephan Lewies will replace Du Toit in the starting team, while White is yet to name a new player to take Lewies’s spot on the bench.
“It is unfortunate, but Pieter-Steph [du Toit] will not be playing against the Reds,” White told a media scrum.
“That will mean that Ryan Kankowski will have to take on more responsibility in the line-outs and step up as leader in that regard.
“We will have to expect a full 80 minutes from him and he will have to move to different positions in the line-out to where he was going to slot in.”
The coach said it is “too early” to say how serious the injury is.
“I will take a look at the scans and take it from there. I also haven’t had enough time to think about who will come into the squad.”
White said the loss of the young Bok means the Reds line-out – which features veteran Wallaby James Horwill – will be a “big challenge”.
The loss of Du Toit is not the only injury enforced change made on Thursday.
“Jean [Deysel] got a bang on the leg and suffered a bit of a contusion there,” White said, adding that the burly loose forward – who can also play at lock – will only be sidelined for a week.
Du Toit is the second player to have withdrawn from the Sharks team this week because of a knee injury. Outside centre Paul Jordaan was forced out for a month after injuring his knee against the Lions last week.
Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Sibusiso Sithole, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (Captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 TBA, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Heimar Williams, 23 Jaco van Tonder.
Date: Saturday 15 March
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, 01:05 Sunday AEST)
Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa), Stefan Breytenbach (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)