Centre Richard Kahui has gone for the season and Aaron Cruden is in doubt for this Friday night's return match against the Highlanders in Dunedin as the Chiefs count the toll to emerge from the weekend.
Kahui's news, relayed by All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen after Saturday night's 60-0 third-test whitewash of Ireland at Waikato Stadium, was a major shock after Kahui himself had reported good news from his Auckland specialist just a month earlier.
However, the healing expected to take place without surgery on the shoulder dislocated in Brisbane on May 13 has not happened and now the Waikato All Black faces yet another operation on one of his injury-plagued shoulders.
"It's disappointing for Richard," Hansen said. "He's now going to have surgery and that's going to take [him out] for six months, so we won't see him till next year's Super 15, which is a real shame."
Cruden has been troubled by Achilles tendon problems during the Super Rugby season, but not enough to keep him from starting every game for the Chiefs so far. However, after coming from the field with an injury to the same area 24 minutes into the test he is in doubt for the Highlanders game.
Elsewhere the news for the Chiefs players in the All Blacks was all positive with Hansen effusive about the play of flankers Sam Cane and Liam Messam and it will be interesting to see what the Chiefs do with Cane this week.
With Tanerau Latimer coming off the break it may be decided to rest Cane and with the same starting seven who has done the job so far for the Chiefs. However, that will depend on how Latimer has come through the Rotorua camp.
When it comes to the All Blacks it seems Hansen is in no rush to move skipper Richie McCaw from the openside spot to anywhere else and bring in Cane fulltime.
"The pleasing thing about Sam Cane's performance is we now have someone who could go out and do that role and it gives us flexibility with Richard. If we want him to be there in 2015 then we now have a viable option to give him a breather."
Messam did everything the All Blacks coaches wanted from him, as confirmed by Hansen, but he is again in a dogfight to hold his place in the squad for the Rugby Championship with Hansen hinting they will take only five loosies.
"It could be his best game in the All Blacks jersey," Hansen said.
"He was really aggressive and did a number of things we'd been looking for him to do over a number of previous tests that he hasn't quite done.
"He was consistent and that gives us a bit of a headache from the point of view that if we only want to pick X amount of loosies as we have before then someone is going to have to miss out."
That puts Messam again in direct competition with Adam Thomson and Victor Vito for a more permanent place in the squad.
Sonny Bill Williams and Brodie Retallick both emerged from the Irish series with immense credit which can only enhance their performances for the Chiefs over the next few weeks.
Retallick looks set to stay part of a status quo locking group.
Hansen has suggested that one place would be held for veteran Ali Williams if he comes back from knee surgery in time.
With Cory Jane coming back from injury there will also have to be a wing pruned from the squad, meaning it is likely one of Zac Guildford, Hosea Gear, Julian Savea and Ben Smith will have to be dropped.
Hansen and fellow selectors Ian Foster and Grant Fox will pick a 28-man squad for the Rugby Championship with two of those not travelling for the overseas matches.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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