Crusaders captain and No8 Kieran Read's toe injury has ruled him out of his team's trip to South Africa.
It is a massive blow to the Crusaders, with Read in excellent form in the absence of regular captain Richie McCaw, who is on a sabbatical.
The franchise said this morning that scans showed a partial tear of ligaments under Read's big toe. He is expected to be out of the game for at least four weeks.
The Crusaders face two extremely tough assignments in the Stormers and Sharks while in the Republic. They are already missing Dan Carter, who is staying at home to be at the birth of his first child.
Coach Todd Blackadder said: "It is hugely disappointing that Kieran cannot join the team to South Africa. He has been playing some brilliant rugby this season and it is unfortunate that this injury will keep him out of the game.''
Vice-captain George Whitelock will take up the captaincy role in Read's absence, with Jordan Taufua included as cover.