South African referee Jason Jaftha has been ruled out for four months of Super Rugby action after damaging the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee.
Jaftha, who is one of 11 referees on SARU's Elite Panel, suffered the injury three minutes into a Super Rugby warm-up match between the Lions and the Sharks in February, and had to be stretchered off the field.
He will have surgery on Monday to repair the ligaments and the recovery and rehabilitation process is expected to keep him out of action until July.
The referee, however, will continue to be used in a Television Match Official (TMO) capacity while he recovers from the injury.
"It is always sad to lose one of our talented referees to injury," said SARU's GM for Referees Andre Watson.
"I feel for Jason because he has worked hard to secure a place on the Super Rugby referee panel.
But unfortunately injuries are always a risk in sport. We wish him well as he recovers in the next few months, and we hope to see him back in action during the Currie Cup competition.
"Fortunately we will still gain from his expertise as he will be drafted into the TMO structures until he recovers."
Jaftha was as one of six South African referees named on the 18-man Super Rugby referee panel for the 2014 season before suffering the injury.
Craig Joubert, Jaco Peyper, Stuart Berry, Lourens van der Merwe and Marius van der Westhuizen have all been in action in the first few rounds of the competition.
Should Jaftha's recovery progress smoothly, he could be back in action for the opening round of the Currie Cup Premier Division on August 8 and 9.