Finlay Bealham faces a race against time to play any part in the remainder of Connacht’s season after suffering a fractured ankle at the weekend.
Connacht head coach Andy Friend says the province will miss "one of the most energetic props in Ireland" with Bealham (28) already recovering from surgery on the injury.
The international tighthead suffered a gruesome ankle fracture five minutes into Connacht’s 41-14 hammering at the hands of Edinburgh in Murrayfield last Friday night.
“I got a text from Finlay this morning, he was in good spirits and he is on the road to recovery,” said Friend, who confirmed Bealham had successful surgery on Monday evening.
“When we hit play-offs, which is still the plan, we will hopefully get him back. He is a key man. He is a real character and a great footballer.
“You miss that impact that he brings at set-piece as well, he has got some real smarts there in the way he physically grows himself into the game. And his energy, he is one of the most energetic props in the country.
“So we will miss that but that is an opportunity for Dominic Robertston-McCoy and Conor Kenny to pick up.”
Ex-Munster prop Rory Burke also picked up an ankle injury at the weekend and Connacht are awaiting a scan to see whether they will be in further trouble in the tighthead position.
The 2016 PRO12 champions make the long trip to Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium for a clash with Southern Kings in South Africa this weekend.
Hooker Johnny Murphy suffered a head injury in the loss to Edinburgh but Dave Heffernan will not be released from Ireland camp to join the travelling party, with ex-Ireland U-20 star Dylan Tierney-Martin is set to make the trip instead.
Ultan Dillane is also set to stay with Andy Farrell’s men with Connacht down to the bare bones of their squad again after a treacherous Christmas period.
However, Cillian Gallagher, Darragh Leader, Peter McCabe, Tom McCartney, Quinn Roux, and Gavin Thornbury look likely to make their comebacks after this week’s game in South Africa.
“We are getting through, each week we are picking up new injuries,” said Friend.
“We have got 13 plus our three internationals out. We will send a squad over that will have to win, but I believe we can win with the squad we have got.”