After a season out with injury, Manawatu and Highlanders flanker Doug Tietjens faces at least another six months off the field.
He has ruptured the Achilles tendon on his left leg after a touch training session with the Highlanders in Dunedin.
A year ago he wrecked his right knee while playing for the Highlanders in South Africa and had geared his rehabilitation to a return to Super Rugby this year.
He was not able to play for Manawatu last season and the Turbos have held off signing him after hearing of his latest setback.
"That was understandable," Tietjens said from Dunedin yesterday. "I didn't play last year and after another big injury you would want to wait and see."
Manawatu chief executive John Knowles might have signed him late last year but Tietjens' agent had held off, and in the meantime the player suffered another injury.
One positive out of it is that Tietjens is still on the Highlanders' payroll.
He will stay in Dunedin with his partner and 11-month-old daughter Ella, a change of scenery after doing his previous recovery in Palmerston North.
"It's a bit tough but oh well, I'm kind of used to it now," he said.
"In this line of work you can't really help injuries."
He had been back in training for two weeks and had a sore neck after a previous contact session.
"I was contemplating whether or not to train; there was nothing wrong with my Achilles and no issue with my knee. All my rehab had paid off."
But 45 minutes into the non-contact conditioning session, he received a ball, went to take off, felt as if someone had slapped him on the back of the leg and he fell to the ground. He had surgery three days later and is now on crutches.
The earliest he will be back is July, a month before the ITM Cup season starts.
His Manawatu ambitions would hinge on showing he was back fit to play. Former captain Josh Bradnock had the same injury and it eventually forced him out of the game.
Knowles has had too much experience with paying players who have not been fit to play and having to pay replacements. Last year there was Scott Curry and Tietjens and the previous season Brett Pigott.
"We are holding back on players," Knowles said. "We want to see them in club football."
Flanker Antonio Kiri Kiri will come back into the reckoning again. He and prospective rep lock Hamish McKellar are training hard while playing for Santboiana, in Barcelona.
By 2015 Manawatu should reap the rewards from investment in their academy. Last week the academy team beat the IRANZ Advanced group by 71-19 at Massey University and the Manawatu team included promising centre Jamie Perigo, who missed all of last season after a serious knee injury in the opening club game.
Knowles has heard of a couple of schoolboys who have been lured away from Manawatu on scholarships, but he refuses to offer financial incentives to get them to stay.
- © Fairfax NZ News