Rugby World Cup winning hooker John Smit will be out for up to eight weeks after injuring his knee in a training ground incident.
This means Smit will be unavailable for ASM Clermont Auverge as they battle to progress from Pool 5.
Smit twisted his knee during a club training session on Monday and is undergoing further medical examinations this week to determine the extent of the damage.
Estimates range between a five and eight week lay off. "John was injured in a tackle in one of our training sessions," confirmed Jean-Marc Lhermet, Clermont's team manager.
"The internal lateral ligament is affected, although it is not totally torn, added the club's medical staff.
The loss of Smit will be a blow however Clermont can call upon the services of Argentina hooker Mario Ledesma, a player whose consistent performances last season helped earn the European Challenge Cup
But life at the top table of European rugby has proved tough for the side from central France. Defeats in rounds 2 and 4 to Munster and London Wasps means they are third in Pool 5 and must win both their remaining matches to secure a place in the quarter-finals.
Clermont will host Auch on Saturday in the Top 14 Round 6, before facing two deciding matches in the Heineken Cup against Munster and then Llanelli Scarlets.