Chiefs captain Craig Clarke looks set to miss at least the first month of Taranaki's national championship campaign.
Clarke revealed after Saturday night's 37-6 Super Rugby final win over the Sharks that his injured knee would require at least six weeks rest.
While he was set to miss Taranaki's last two preseason matches against Waikato and Counties-Manukau because of annual leave, he now looks certain to be absent for their opening ITM Cup match against Bay Of Plenty, as well as Ranfurly Shield defences against Tasman, Hawke's Bay and Canterbury.
"It's a medial injury, grade two. It's a six to eight-week recovery period," Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said after the final.
"He had to grin and bear it [to play in the final].
"To get 80 minutes out of him speaks volumes for the character of the man.
"Craig has been outstanding.
"He's certainly put himself in a position where he's been noticed now. Craig showed today, he should not have even stripped, but we got 80 minutes out of him.
"That's the sort of player I would want on the track."
To hell with the dire injury predictions, Clarke said that despite being laid up until Thursday he was adamant he wanted to play in the final.
While some in his position would require a cortisone injection to push through the pain barrier, Clarke's magic medicine involved the age-old ice and heat combination.
"Nah [no cortisone], we just taped it up," he said.
"There was plenty of ice during the week and we warmed it up really well before the game with a wheat pack.
"It's amazing what a bit of adrenaline does. It felt quite good strapped up.
"It was a bit stiff in the last 10 minutes."
While Clarke's absence will be a big loss for Taranaki coach Colin Cooper, he can at least call on the services of locks Jason Eaton and James Broadhurst, while Jarrad Hoeata and Kane Barrett are other options.
While Willie Rickards captained Taranaki against King Country and Wanganui, Eaton's return could see him being handed the job, which he did last year when Clarke was rested.
- Taranaki Daily News
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