South Africa, still feeling the affects of the battering they took at the hands of Australia at the weekend, are struggling to find enough fit locks ahead of their next Tri-Nations assignment.
Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts revealed on Monday that there are only two fit locks in the squad ahead of their encounter with the All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday.
One of those is Paris-based Gerhard Mostert, who flew in on Sunday, where he was training with French club Stade Français.
Both starting locks used by the Boks in the humiliating 20-39 Tri-Nations loss to the Wallabies last Saturday - Flip van der Merwe and Alistair Hargreaves - are carrying injuries.
Van der Merwe is suffering from a rib cartilage injury, which he sustained early in the Sydney encounter and played on with for 30 minutes. The Bulls second row forward is a doubtful starter.
Hargreaves has an abdominal strain, but appears a more likely candidate to recover ahead of the Test against the All Blacks.
Mostert and Danie Rossouw, who started in the flank against Australia, are the only two locks in the touring squad who are currently injury free.
“Our biggest concern is Flip van der Merwe, who popped his rib cartilage and he is very doubtful for this weekend,” Roberts told a media gathering in Sydney - where the Bok will base themselves, before flying to New Zealand on Wednesday.
“We are going to see how he responds over the next 24 hours, but I don't see him making a miraculous recovery in terms of his availability for Saturday,” the team doctor added.
Roberts was more upbeat about Hargreaves.
“Alistair Hargreaves has an abdominal muscle strain and he missed training today [Monday] as a precaution, but we are confident he will be ready for this weekend."
Fullback Gio Aplon, who also missed training on Monday, is struggling with a badly bruised back.
"Gio Aplon also sat out, after he landed quite awkwardly on his back and he has a bruised lower back.
"However, he should be good to go from tomorrow [Tuesday],” Roberts said.
Bok assistant coach Gary Gold said that the rash of injuries - lock Johann Muller pulled out of the Test against Australia with a hamstring complaint and has since returned home - will play a part in the team selected for the All Blacks clash.
“The plan is just to play anyone who is fit at this stage,” Gold said.
“The plan when we came over was to pick the best team to go and win two Tri-Nations games.
"There wasn't a rotation policy and it was about picking the best team out of the 28 guys that were here.
“Injuries have played their hand for us and now we are literally picking last man standing. If they are fit enough then they are going to play,” Gold added.
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