Brad Shields will miss up to seven weeks of Super Rugby after scans revealed the full extent of the knee injury he suffered during a pre-season match in Melbourne on Saturday.
And in a double blow to the Hurricanes, wing Matt Proctor has been ruled out of the side's coming tour of South Africa after twisting his ankle in the same match.
Scans yesterday confirmed Shields' initial prognosis of a grade two medial collateral tear, but was told yesterday he suffered a subluxed patella, which has loosened his left knee.
The medical team estimate the 22-year-old will be out for six to eight weeks, meaning his earliest return would be round six against the Highlanders in Dunedin on March 21.
That's a cruel blow for a player who two years ago battled back from a serious injury when a chunk of cartilage was dislodged from his right knee, resulting in surgery and six months on the sidelines.
Both Shields and Proctor will miss Friday's final warm-up match against the Crusaders in Levin as well as the opening two matches of the season proper against the Sharks and Stormers.
Shields is also likely to force a rethink as coach Mark Hammett ponders his best loose trio.
Faifili Levave is possibly the next cab off the blindside rank, but has missed the first two warm-up matches with shin splints and remains a 50-50 chance of playing in Levin.
That could open the way for Blade Thomson, who impressed at No 8 against the Rebels, or for Jack Lam and openside Ardie Savea to play as a left-right combination.
Primarily an openside, Lam was yesterday named as the Pacific Island Players Association's Samoan player of the year for 2013 and is well capable of playing blindside.
Hammett's final decision may well come down to who takes their chance in the final pre-season match.
Proctor, who had also been in strong form during the pre-season, will be available for the Hurricanes' first home match against the Brumbies on March 7.
All Blacks Cory Jane and Julian Savea are the Hurricanes most likely first choice wings.
- The Dominion Post
Who gets your vote as greatest All Black of all time?Related story: With Boks beaten, time for revenge over England