South Africa and Bulls have been dealt a huge blow after it was confirmed fly-half Handre Pollard will miss the entire Super Rugby season with a cruciate knee ligament injury.
Pollard had been stepping up his recovery from a shoulder injury that threatened to rule him out of the start of the campaign.
However, the 21-year-old, who has 20 caps for the Springboks, suffered a fresh setback during a training drill and Bulls announced on Tuesday that he is ruled out for at least nine months.
"It was bad luck, nothing more," head coach Nollis Marais said. "We were doing a normal drill with passing and he had just began to make contact with the tackle bags in his recovery as part of his rehab.
"We did a non-contact session and he was looking like his old self, cutting the line and looking like a Springbok again.
"Then all of a sudden, with nobody within five metres of him, he pulled up. We hoped it wasn't worse, but it is really devastating news."
The injury is also a concern to South Africa, with Pollard having been the regular number 10 at last year's Rugby World Cup.
Sharks star Pat Lambie is also set for a spell on the sidelines with a shoulder injury and South Africa will hope he can recover in time for the three-match Test series against Ireland in June.