Dai Flanagan has revealed Elliot Dee faces a spell on the sidelines after suffering a broken collarbone against Zebre – but has backed the other hookers at the club to now grasp the opportunity to impress in South Africa.
Dee has undergone successful surgery after picking up the injury in the Rodney Parade victory last month.
Head Coach Flanagan admits the Wales international will be sorely missed during his time out.
But he has added it is now a huge chance for other players to impress, with Bradley Roberts also currently away with Wales.
“Elliot has had surgery after the Zebre game as he unfortunately broke his collarbone. He will hopefully be back just before the Six Nations,” said Flanagan.
“It is a blow for Elliot. He's been great since I've come in. He's a local boy who leads a lot around here. He's proud to wear the shirt, you see it in his day-to-day habits.
“But it's an opportunity for James Benjamin, Ellis Shipp and Brodie Coughlan to come to South Africa with us, and then we’ve got Bradley Roberts to come up at a certain stage.
“I think the track will shoot all three of them. It's a great opportunity for them to show that they're ready for this level.”
Meanwhile, Flanagan has confirmed Wales international lock Will Rowlands is ruled out after shoulder surgery.
Scrum half Rhodri Williams, though, will make the trip to South Africa despite suffering a toe ligament injury last time out.
“Will has had shoulder surgery and he will definitely be out for the derbies over the festive period,” added Flanagan.
“The full length we haven't put a timeline on it. It's a shoulder injury and it'll depend on how his rehab goes.”
It is a blow for Elliot. He's been great since I've come in. He's a local boy who leads a lot around here. He's proud to wear the shirt, you see it in his day-to-day habits.