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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 November, 2003, 06:54 GMT
Springboks lose Van Niekerk
Joe van Niekerk
South Africa have suffered a major blow with the news that flanker Joe van Niekerk will miss the rest of the Rugby World Cup with a serious knee injury.

Van Niekerk tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during Saturday's 60-10 victory over Samoa.

The 23-year-old is due to return to South Africa shortly, where he will see a specialist and undergo an operation.

Van Niekerk, who scored the first of his side's eight tries against Samoa, is likely to be out for up to six months.

His loss is a massive setback for South Africa.

The Springboks face a quarter-final clash with New Zealand in Melbourne on Saturday, providing England beat Uruguay.

And van Niekerk is the star of a powerful back row which has become the mainstay of South Africa's team.

South Africa have yet to decide who will replace him in the squad.

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