Former Springboks captain Warren Whiteley faces a race against time to be ready for the Rugby World Cup after announcing that he will be sidelined for at least another two months with the knee injury he sustained in April.
Whiteley, 31, has been beset with injuries since he was named South Africa captain two years ago, and he suffered the latest problem during a match against the Chiefs in April.
He had been expected initially to return for the latter part of Super Rugby's regular season, but those hopes have been dashed as the Lions seek a playoff place.
"I'm not 100 percent sure how long I'll be out for, but we're looking at about two months," Whiteley, who also missed the early part of the Super Rugby season with a pectoral muscle tear, told South Africa's Rapport newspaper on Sunday.
"I'll take my time to ensure that I'm 100 percent fit when I return. I'll probably play in the Currie Cup first and hopefully I get enough game time to come in contention for Springbok selection."
South Africa play three Rugby Championship games between July 20 and August 10, which are likely to come too soon for Whiteley.
Instead he will be looking to return for the warm-up Test against Argentina in Pretoria on August 17 before the Boks head to Japan for the World Cup, which starts on September 20.
Whiteley was named South Africa captain in 2017, but he was injured after just two Tests as skipper. He was then sidelined for the next six months with a groin injury.
On his return in early 2018 he suffered a knee injury that ruled him out of most of the Super Rugby season and kept him out of more Tests, which paved the way for Siya Kolisi take over as Springboks captain.
Whiteley returned to lead the Lions in a third successive Super Rugby final last August and then played for Springboks in the Rugby Championship before his latest round of injuries.
"It has definitely been a challenge to get over the injuries but I'm full of confidence that my luck will turn and things will get better," Whiteley said.