Western Force have had a major setback nine days out from the start of the Super Rugby season with captain Matt Hodgson straining a hamstring.
Coach Michael Foley is waiting for results of scans today after the openside flanker limped off at training yesterday.
Medical staff said it was too early to assess the damage and could not give a time frame on Hodgson's return.
However, there is every chance he could miss the season opener against the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday week and the first leg of the Force's South African tour, the historic clash with newcomers Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth.
The Force will hope to have Hodgson fit for the second game in South Africa, in Pretoria against the Bulls.
If he does not recover for that game then he will have a further week to rest as the Force have a bye on their return from South Africa before taking on the Queensland Reds in Brisbane.
Hodgson is a crucial member of the Force's strong back row and his loss will mean a rethink for new coach Foley, who may look to start Chris Alcock in the No.7 jumper.
Alcock, a tough ball carrier, followed Foley from the Waratahs to Perth this season.
Another option could be Lachlan McCaffrey, who is in his second season at the Force, or Angus Cottrell, who moved up from the Force extended player squad this year.
Hodgson, a Force foundation member who started in the first game against the Brumbies, was a popular choice for captain after David Pocock left the club to go to the Brumbies.
He is the Force's second-highest capped player with 83 appearances and could pass former captain Nathan Sharpe's record of 92 this season.
Meanwhile, a devastated Cooper Vuna has vowed to again bounce back after suffering a fractured right shoulder that will keep him out of the Melbourne Rebels side for the first four rounds of the season.
The 25-year-old winger said he had "trained the house down" to be ready for the season kick-off against the Force at AAMI Park after having a reconstruction on his other shoulder in August last year.
Vuna made the choice to have that surgery in order to be fit for the Rebels' opener.
During the pre-season he dropped a staggering 10kg to get down to 102kg and was flying in training.
Though the fractured scapula won't require surgery, it is still a significant setback.
With Australian Associated Press