Cape Town - The Sharks have been dealt a crucial blow with the news that veteran prop Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira has returned to South Africa with a knee injury.
Mtawarira was not named in the Sharks' line-up to face the Crusaders on Friday with the franchise confirming that he was on his way back to Durban to have scans on an MCL injury to his left knee.
An MCL injury is a sprain or tear to the medial collateral ligament. The MCL is a band of tissue on the inside of your knee. It connects your thigh bone to the bone of your lower leg. The MCL keeps the knee from bending inward.
It is not known how long Mtawarira, who captained the Sharks to victory over the Waratahs in Sydney last weekend, will be out of action.
He has been replaced in the Sharks squad by Khutha Mchunu.
Mtawarira will at the very least miss the Sharks' final tour match against the Chiefs in Waikato on May 11. After that, the Sharks will enjoy a bye weekend.
Mtawarira's injury adds to a growing number of sidelined Springbok stars that will have national coach Rassie Erasmus a worried man heading into the 2019 Rugby World Cup - now just 20 weeks away.
Star Bulls centre Jesse Kriel has been ruled out of the remainder of the Super Rugby season after ankle surgery.
Meanwhile, coach Robert du Preez has made minimal changes to his team to face the Crusaders in Christchurch with Curwin Bosch retaining the No 10 jumper.
The match kicks off at 09:35 SA time on Friday.
15. Aphelele Fassi, 14. Sbu Nkosi, 13. Lukhanyo Am, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Makazole Mapimpi, 10. Curwin Bosch, 9. Louis Schreuder (captain), 8. Daniel du Preez, 7. Jean-Luc du Preez, 6. Philip van der Walt, 5. Ruan Botha, 4. Ruben van Heerden, 3. Coenie Oosthuizen, 2. Kerron van Vuuren, 1. Thomas du Toit
Substitutes:16. Akker van der Merwe, 17. Mzamo Majola, 18. John-Hubert Meyer, 19. Hyron Andrews, 20. Jacques Vermeulen, 21. Cameron Wright, 22. Robert du Preez, 23. Marius Louw