Ireland's chances of a first win on South African soil have been dealt a major blow with news that Johnny Sexton is out of the summer tour.
oe Schmidt is expected to confirm the news at a press conference today, with Ian Madigan the favourite to be called up to replace his provincial colleague in the squad.
The Lions out-half is understood to have undergone surgery on the shoulder injury he suffered in Saturday's Pro12 final defeat to Connacht and is set to be out of action for around 12 weeks.
Sexton appeared to suffer the injury during the first half. In the 29th minute, he got up gingerly after being tackled by Tom McCartney and received treatment a minute later after tackling John Muldoon, but he played on and finished the 20-10 defeat.
It is not known if the injury is related to the whiplash-style problem that affected him during the Six Nations, but the Irish Independent understands he went under the knife on Tuesday.
It is the second major injury to affect Schmidt's plans this week after Luke Fitzgerald was ruled out with a knee injury on Monday.
When he revealed that news, the New Zealander admitted that he did have several other concerns. He is set to update his squad this afternoon, with Connacht's Matt Healy also in the frame to travel as a replacement for the Leinster winger.
Already without Sean O'Brien, Cian Healy and Tommy Bowe, the loss of Sexton tips the Test series further in the Springboks' favour and will test Ireland's resources at out-half.
Madigan stepped in for Sexton for the World Cup quarter-final defeat to Argentina and has been the preferred replacement ever since, but he was dropped from the touring squad in favour of Paddy Jackson after announcing his departure to Bordeaux.
Jackson has enjoyed a fine end to the season at Ulster, but he has only started two games under Schmidt, the last of which was the World Cup warm-up defeat to Wales last year.
Ireland leave for South Africa on Sunday and play the first Test in Cape Town on Saturday week.