Cape Town - The future of Western Province and Stormers flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis is once again in doubt.
In another devastating development in what has been a promising career ravaged by injury problems, the 25-year-old finds himself sidelined once more with the same hip problems that have threatened on more than one occasion to force an early retirement.
Du Plessis, who started last weekend's 32-27 loss to the Sharks in Durban, will not feature in Saturday's clash against the Golden Lions in Cape Town.
Head coach John Dobson confirmed at Newlands on Thursday that Du Plessis was struggling with "load", adding that he was playing with pain and that there were now real concerns over his long-term future.
It's been a journey that has seen Du Plessis start and stop his rehabilitation more than once, and it included a Hail Mary trip to the United States to seek specialist advice towards the end of 2017.
What was initially thought to be a groin injury all the way back in March of that year evolved into a strain on the pubic bone and then a hip problem before Du Plessis went under the knife. After that first hip surgery, though, the pubic bone problem persisted.
In December 2017, Du Plessis visited American doctor Bill Meyers, were he had further surgery before returning home.
After months of more rehabilitation, he eventually made his comeback in a friendly against Griquas in March 2018 only to crack a rib on his return as his woeful luck continued.
It seems to be a difficult injury to diagnose, with his hips and abdominal region all suffering.
"JL has had issues with his hips and it's a load thing," Dobson said on Thursday.
"He probably needs a little bit of a break for his load and he had a tough afternoon last week.
"He hasn't trained either so it's not a question of him being dropped ... we're literally trying to manage his loads."
When probed further on the injury, Dobson acknowledged that there were fears over exactly how Du Plessis would recover this time around.
"It is a concern of his long-term career," Dobson said.
"It's a very unusual thing. He's been to the States to try and get it fixed and it is a concern for his career.
"Playing in pain is tough for him.
"The one advantage for the shortened Currie Cup is that he'll have three or four months to rebuild, because we finish hopefully in the first week of September."
WP's clash against the Lions kicks off at 17:15 on Saturday and Josh Stander will start in the No 10 jersey.