If you struggle with neck and back injuries, front row is not the ideal place to be
Free State Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie admitted there is concern over Springbok prop Coenie Oosthuizen's best assets - his neck and back.
Cheetahs team doctor Ian Morris confirmed on Monday Oosthuizen will be sidelined for 12 weeks, after he damaged a disc in his lower back during the 15-36 loss to Western Province at Newlands at the weekend.
That means the front row forward joins fellow Cheetahs Bok Johan Goosen on the sideline for the rest of the year.
Both will also miss South Africa's year-end tour to Ireland, Scotland and England.
However, for the Cheetahs it means they will not just be without 12 frontline players, but have just one fit tighthead prop for their promotion-relegation match against the Eastern Province Kings in Bloemfontein on Friday.
"We have had no luck in terms of injuries in the Currie Cup competition this year," Fourie told this website in an interview on Monday.
"In Super Rugby we had just three major injuries, but we have taken some big hits in the Currie Cup and our resources are paper thin at present."
The Cheetahs assistant coach said while the latest setback is not related to the neck injuries that have troubled him since last year, it remains a concern that he has another serious injury to his spine.
"It is not ideal for a prop to have that many injuries to his back and neck," Fourie said, adding" For Coenie it is a huge setback, as those are his most crucial assets in terms of front row play.
"If you constantly struggle with neck and back injuries, front row is not the ideal place to be.
"I truly hope that he makes a full recovery."
Ross Geldenhuys, who stood in at tighthead earlier in the season will start against the Kings on Friday, but beyond the Cheetahs have options for the No.3 jersey.
Oosthuizen heads a list of high-profile injured players that include Springboks Heinrich Brüssow, Johan Goosen and Lucas Floors, as well as Piet van Zyl, Riaan Smit, Trevor Nyakane, Frans Viljoen, Johannes Prinsloo and Andries Ferreira.
There is concern over Oosthuizen, who missed a large part of last year's Currie Cup competition with a neck injury - which he again aggravated during the Super Rugby season and subsequently on his Test debut against England in June.
While he made a comeback in the Currie Cup competition and was called up to the Boks after just 40 minutes of domestic rugby, he was sent for a specialist opinion after "general stiffness" related to the injury troubled him after he joined the Boks during the Rugby Championship.
He was cleared by the specialist and featured in the final Test against the All Blacks, but the latest setback will cast a shadow over his playing aspirations.
By Jan de Koning