Springbok prop Frans Malherbe will most likely miss the Rugby Championship campaign because of a neck injury, it was confirmed on Monday.
The front-ranker underwent scans on Monday afternoon in Port Elizabeth to determine the severity of the injury after complaining about stiffness in his neck.
“Frans consulted a neurosurgeon in PE who suggested extended rest for the player, with follow-up scans to be done in two weeks’ time,” according to Bok team doctor Konrad von Hagen.
Malherbe is replaced by Ruan Dreyer, the Lions prop who made his Springbok debut in the third Test match against France in June.
The Springboks kick off their Rugby Championship tournament on Saturday against Argentina in PE (5pm kickoff).
The squad was strengthened though with the arrival of the experienced scrumhalf Francois Hougaard, who is based in England, where he plays for Worcester Warriors.
His arrival means the Bok squad now have their full complement of players for what promises to be a stern Test on Saturday.
Assistant coach Johann van Graan said the Boks will focus on fine-tuning their preparations this week in anticipation of a huge contest with the Pumas on Saturday.
“Last year we had two close fought battles with the Pumas, and we expect the same when we play them over the next two weeks,” said Van Graan.
“They always have a good scrum, their mauling is a huge threat while their biggest strength is probably at the breakdown.
“In addition to that, the Pumas are also fantastic ball-carriers, so the forward battle will again be a huge contest.”
Von Hagen also confirmed on Monday that Warren Whiteley had surgery on Friday. The lanky No 8 captained the Springboks in two of the three Test matches against France in June, but missed the third encounter because of a groin injury.
“Warren underwent an operation on Friday and he is feeling a lot better already. He is positive that the operation will be a success,” said Von Hagen, who added the groin injury has ruled Whiteley out of action for approximately six weeks.
Scrumhalf Ross Cronjé (shoulder injury), hooker Malcolm Marx (bruised shoulder) and flank Jaco Kriel (flu) all returned to squad training on Monday.
“If Ross can take contact towards the latter part of the week, we will decide on his availability for selection,” explained the team doctor.
Flyhalf Handré Pollard is set to continue with his recovery, according to Von Hagen: “He will carry on with training here in Port Elizabeth, where he is able to continue to work on his fitness and in that way, complete his final phase of his rehabilitation.”