London - Springboks scrumhalf Faf de Klerk faces four months out of action due to injury, the scrum-half's English club Sale Sharks said Thursday.
Already ruled out of the world champion Springboks' end of year tour of Europe, 30-year-old de Klerk had surgery on a hip flexor problem earlier this week and is not expected to return until 2022 at the earliest.
"We're hoping it might be less than five months -– maybe around four months, but we'll see," Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson told a news conference.
"I'm not happy about it but what can you do. We have to stay cheerful."
Sanderson added: "Faf is a very positive lad. He's brought his girlfriend back over from South Africa to look after him which is massive for him personally. If anyone is going to come back from an injury like this as strong and as motivated, then it's him.
"Our S+C (strength and conditioning) guys are very experienced, and they'll get the best advice too."
De Klerk was one of several injured players omitted from a 32-strong squad announced by Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber on Tuesday including wing Cheslin Kolbe, flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit, lock RG Snyman and prop Frans Malherbe.
Having won the Webb Ellis trophy, by beating England in the 2019 World Cup final in Japan, the Springboks went 19 months without a Test due to the coronavirus pandemic before winning six internationals and losing four this year.
They recovered from a first Test loss to the British and Irish Lions to win the series 2-1 before losing twice to Australia and winning and suffering defeat by New Zealand in the Rugby Championship.
The South Africa squad travel to France on Friday for a one-week training camp before heading to Britain for a trio of November internationals against Wales, Scotland and England.