Waisake Naholo's Rugby World Cup hopes are in peril with the winger set to be sidelined for six weeks.
The Highlanders flyer sustained a knee injury at training on Monday, with MRI scans revealing he has a grade two MCL tear.
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The 2015 Rugby World Cup winner is one of many contenders for the All Blacks No.14 jersey alongside Jordie Barrett, George Bridge and possibly Ben Smith, but a lengthy spell in the medical ward will have Naholo playing catchup.
The 26-test All Black suffered a similar fate in 2015 when a broken leg appeared to rule him out of World Cup plans.
But the Fijian native's uncle, a local village doctor, provided an eight-day treatment plan by re-setting the break and binding it with kawakawarau leaves.
Despite being all-but ruled out by the selectors, Naholo made a miraculous recovery and was named in the 31-man squad, playing in two games.
His expected return in mid-May would give him just four regular season games to convince All Blacks coach Steve Hansen that he would be able to regain his form ahead of the Rugby Championship and force his way into World Cup contention.
Naholo will be sorely missed by the Highlanders, who have lost three of their last four games and not won since week two of the competition, dropping to fourth in the New Zealand conference.
Their match with the Crusaders three weeks ago was cancelled due to the shooting at two Christchurch mosques on March 15 that killed 50 people.
The Highlanders face the Hurricanes in Dunedin on Friday before travelling to Christchurch for the return game against the table-topping Crusaders on April
The Highlanders have not named a replacement for their star winger.
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