Chiefs star centre Richard Kahui could miss up to the first four matches of the new Super Rugby season.
All Black Kahui, who will head to Japan at the end of the season, is coming back from his fourth shoulder reconstruction in six years and the need to have additional keyhole surgery to tidy up scar tissue means he will miss this Friday's season opener against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
He is also doubtful for the second match against the Cheetahs in Hamilton eight days later.
That would mean the Chiefs' coaches face a decision on whether to take Kahui to South Africa for rounds three and four against the Stormers and Kings.
''I talked to the doctor and he still thinks it needs quite a bit of settling down to do [after that clean-up surgery],'' Kahui said.
"I'm starting to do plenty of running around at training and contact running, but I still can't get into the tackling stuff yet and it's no good having a midfielder who can't tackle.''
With it looking likely Kahui will miss the Cheetahs match that will not leave much time to make a decision on the South African tour as the team leave for the republic soon after that Waikato Stadium fixture.
''That will be a conversation if I don't play next week. Obviously they are restricted by numbers and can't take too many non-players.''
Kahui said he did not feel under pressure to return sooner rather than later but was eager to get back out on the field.
However, Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie said they were reluctant to rush Kahui back and risk further injury. He also discounted putting the 27 year old back on the wing to remove him from the midfield collisions.
''We want to make sure that Richard's a hundy and in the end we need to get a lot of contact work into him.
''There's still a bit of bruising and once that's sorted and we can get some contact work into him, then we'll make a decision on when he comes back in but we don't want to rush him because it's a long competition as it would be a disaster to bring him in early and lose him early,'' Rennie said.
Meanwhile, Kahui said if he had his time over again he would probably have kept the New Zealand Rugby Union and All Blacks coach Steve Hansen in the loop over his negotiations with Japanese club Toshiba.
But he doesn't think any counteroffer from the NZRU would have changed his mind about heading to Japan at the end of the current Super Rugby season in August.
Hansen has expressed his disappointment that neither Kahui nor his agent had spoken to the union about their plans until the two-year contract was all but signed.
''We were very disappointed with that because he didn't really speak to us, or his agent didn't,'' Hansen told LiveSPORT Radio.
''We always find that a bit frustrating.''
Hansen said the NZRU did a great job keeping in touch with player agents.
''By and large you don't normally get surprised. Normally you hear from them and then you have the opportunity to discuss it and put a reasonable offer if you want them to stay, you have an op to fight to keep them.
''In this case we didn't, so that was a bit disappointing. We have discussed that and moved on,'' he said.
Kahui said hindsight was a great thing as it now seemed he didn't go about things the right way.
''If I had my time again we might have done things a little bit differently but the decision is made and we feel we've made the best decision. I never wanted to rub anyone up the wrong way.''
- © Fairfax NZ News
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