Springboks flyhalf Handre Pollard, who played a key role in a rare away success for the Bulls in Australia last week, is returning home after injuring his calf and will miss the next three Super Rugby matches.
Pollard, who is the team captain, picked up the calf strain in training this week ahead of Friday's clash against the ACT Brumbies, the Bulls said in a statement on Wednesday.
His return to South Africa means he also misses the last two of the Bulls' four-match swing through Australia and New Zealand.
They beat the Melbourne Rebels last Friday, with the 25-year-old Pollard kicking 12 points in the 32-17 victory that took the Bulls top of the South African conference.
But he now also misses key matches against the Auckland Blues on May 31 and Otago Highlanders on June 7, before the Bulls return home for the last regular season match at home to neighbours the Lions on June 15.
Duane Vermeulen will lead the Bulls in Canberra on Friday while Pollard's place is taken by 21-year-old Manie Libbok.
"Handre is probably in the leading 10 in the world at the moment, so to take over from him is not easy, but Manie has done well for us when he took to the field this year and I have the utmost confidence in him this weekend," said Bulls coach Pote Human.
"He is an exciting young talent and we are looking forward to watching him grow. He would not be around if he was not good enough, that is for sure."