The Highlanders must make do without the services of key flanker Liam Squire for a while yet.
The All Blacks flanker will be sidelined for the next 8-10 weeks, after tearing the medial ligament in knee in training.
The injury is another cruel blow for the 27-year-old, who has yet to play a single minute of Super Rugby this season, as the team eased him back from a long-standing hip issue.
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He returned to full training last week and was in line to return against the Blues on Friday.
"He would've been available this week," confirmed head coach Aaron Mauger. "It's a terrible blow for him.
"The guy's worked so hard to get back to where he is. Unfortunately, these things happen in rugby and it's happened to a guy who's already had a bit of adversity this year."
The recovery timeframe means Squire should be available for selection about week 13, when the Highlanders host the Jaguares.
That should mean the powerhouse blindside has enough time to work his way back into form for the team's potential playoff push, as he looks to secure the All Blacks number-six jersey for the bumper international campaign ahead.
Last month, Squire announced he'd be heading back to Japan after October's Rugby World Cup to take up a two-year deal with the NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes.
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