Defender Bongani Khumalo has been ruled out of Doncaster Rovers’ Championship survival battle after rupturing his kneecap while on international duty.
The on-loan Tottenham centre-half was stretchered off in South Africa’s 5-0 defeat to Brazil on Wednesday night and underwent an operation yesterday which will sideline him for at least six months.
The 27-year-old has been a key member of Rovers’ defence, and with captain Rob Jones also out for the rest of the campaign with a neck injury, it leaves Doncaster stretched at the back.
“We are all devastated for him,” said Rovers manager Paul Dickov.
“He’s ruptured his patella tendon in his knee, which is a serious injury.
“He will have an operation in South Africa (yesterday), and that rules him out not just for this season, but a large part of next season as well.
“Away from being a blow for us, it’s a massive blow for the kid. He’s done really well for us, and off the pitch he is such a humble guy.
“He has just gone up for a header and landed awkwardly. As injuries go this season, it’s another innocuous one we have picked up.
“It’s the way things have been going for us, at the minute, but at times like this you have to dig in, roll your sleeves up and show everybody what you are all about.”
Khumalo’s South Africa team-mate Dean Furman played the full 90 minutes against Brazil, to further deepen Dickov’s mood as he prepares for tomorrow’s derby with Huddersfield Town.
Dickov believes the midfielder – who is not due to fly back to South Yorkshire until today – should have been substituted, rather than completing a full 90 minutes in the friendly in Johannesburg.
“Dean came through okay but I was disappointed he got 90 minutes again in a friendly. That’s something that has to be addressed,” said Dickov.
“I know it was a big game for South Africa, but it’s not like they are putting a squad together to go to the World Cup finals.
“When teams in Europe, and England, have a lot of games and things to play for, maybe a bit of common sense should have prevailed and play more home-based players.
“I could not see the point in keeping Dean on for that amount of time. He played last Saturday, has done a lot of travelling, and has a lot of travelling to get back before an important game.”
Paul Quinn looks likely to return tomorrow for Rovers, taking over from Khumalo, while striker Billy Sharp is also back after serving his three-match ban for a red card.
Rovers are just three points clear of the relegation zone, although third-from-bottom Charlton Athletic have three games in hand.