We've been absolutely hammered at loose forward and lock
Western Province, already decimated by injuries and national team call-ups, have lost another key player ahead of the opening round of Currie Cup action.
Prop JC Kritzinger, who has had to overcome two serious knee injuries in the last three years that severely limited his game time, has been ruled out of the encounter with the Sharks at Newlands on Saturday.
WP assistant coach Robbie Fleck confirmed to this website that Kritzinger, who was one of two props on the Province bench, injured his ankle at training and once again face a lay-off.
It is not certain if Province will name another prop on the bench, as they still have Brok Harris among the replacements. The additional replacement is expected to be named on Friday.
Fleck bemoaned the rash of injuries that have ripped the heart out of the Cape Town outfit.
"It is not ideal," Fleck told this website, adding: "Steven Kitshoff, Rynhardt Elstadt, JC Kritzinger, Hilton Lobberts, Michael van der Spuy, Berton Klaasen are all players who were supposed to have been playing for us this weekend and got injured between the Super Rugby semifinal [on Saturday, July 28] and Wednesday [August 8].
"It is just one of those years where we are getting decimated."
To say that WP are 'thin' in terms of depth would be an understatement.
"Last year we had a fair number of players from Dobbo's [John Dobson's WP] Under-21 team we could call on," Fleck said, adding: "We 'stole' three of his centres within the space of two days."
Loose forward and lock remain the WP coaching staff's biggest headache - with Siya Kolisi on Bok duty, Nick Fenton-Wells having joined Saracens in England, while Rynhardt Elstadt, Nick Koster, Schalk Burger, Nizaam Carr and Duane Vermeulen all currently sidelined with injuries.
Burger and Carr will not feature in the Currie Cup at all.
"There is a huge number of injuries and players lost through the season," Fleck said, adding: "That is why retaining the services of [Canadian import] Jebb Sinclair was so massively important to us.
"We were facing real problems there [loose forward].
"We've already had to play a hooker at No.8 and No.6 and it looks as if [hooker] Deon Fourie is going to have to play in that position for the Currie Cup."
Lock is another issue for Province.
"Quinn Roux signing for Leinster [in Ireland] was a big loss.
"It would have been the perfect opportunity to play him as a regular [starter] at No.4 with the view of a Super Rugby berth next year.
"Hilton Lobberts fractured his arm, he is a big loss. Now we are playing Don Armand out of position at lock.
"We had to call on the Under-21 captain Wilhelm van der Sluys to cover there."
In terms of the front row WP didn't lose anybody to Springbok call-ups and most of the guys have been around for a while.
In the backline, according to Fleck, they are also well covered - despite having lost four players to Springboks.
"There's still good young talent coming through," the WP assistant said.
"We've been absolutely hammered at loose forward and lock, but it is something we have to deal with.
"The [WP] camp has camp has moved on from a massively disappointing loss in the [Super Rugby] semifinal and is determined to make things work in the Currie Cup and play some good rugby and win a trophy - the desire and everything is there."
By Jan de Koning