The Highlanders won't be calling in another player to cover for suspended skipper Andrew Hore.
The All Blacks hooker was banned for five weeks for his deliberate swinging arm that knocked out Wales lock Bradley Davies in Cardiff last week.
Hore will miss this weekend's test against England, the Highlanders pre-season fixtures against the Crusaders, Chiefs and Blues and their opening game against the Chiefs on February 22.
Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark said the ban was disappointing given Hore had just been named captain ahead of the 2013 season and would be a big part of the franchise's plans.
"You have to have two injuries in any one position to bring a player into the squad and we've got Brayden Mitchell and Liam Coltman," Clark said.
Stags veteran Jason Rutledge would likely be at the top of the list if the Highlanders did need to add a rake to their squad.
Hore's swinging arm carried a maximum eight-week suspension but it was reduced given his previously unblemished record.
"I want to say how bad I feel and embarrassed to be in this situation," he said.
"It's not the All Blacks way. I've let myself and the team down and probably the whole country that's pretty proud of what we do.
"I hope Bradley Davies gets back up and running and playing in the Heineken Cup as soon as he can. I've been on the phone.
"I talked to him on Sunday about the incident.
"The All Black management and senior leadership group has been pretty stern on me as well for getting us in this situation.
"Hopefully, I can take what I've got and start building my reputation as a good, clean, hard footy player."
The Highlanders already have issues in the front row with tighthead props Chris King and Ma'afu Fia both recovering from off-season surgery.
King is expected to miss the first month of the competition, while it's touch and go whether Fia will be ready for the start of the campaign.
Clark said the Highlanders were looking at what options where available before bringing a prop into the squad.
The Highlanders will go into camp on December 10 with the 24 players not involved in either the All Blacks or Maori All Blacks tours.
The Maori players will rejoin the squad on January 8 and the All Blacks are scheduled to return in the first week of February.
- © Fairfax NZ News