Highlander Tamati Ellison is heading back to Japanese club Ricoh, a move which will add to Steve Hansen's midfield headaches this year.
Ellison's form in his comeback game from chest surgery against the Sharks in Dunedin last weekend was a boost not only to Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph as his team finally got off the mark for the season, but also Hansen.
With Conrad Smith set to have a sabbatical at the end of the year - and suffering a concussion injury in the loss to the Bulls at the weekend - Ma'a Nonu out of form and not even on the Highlanders' tour of South Africa due to injury, Rene Ranger considering a move to France, and Richard Kahui out with injury (with even his Japan move in doubt), Ellison would have been an important member of Hansen's team this year.
This latest news will not be received well by the national selectors, who were aghast at Kahui's announcement he was joining Mitsubishi without first talking to them.
The 30-year-old Ellison, a versatile player, has played four tests for the All Blacks. He has played for Ricoh before but his form for the Highlanders on his return last year earned him selection for the All Blacks squad.
The Highlanders are in Port Elizabeth preparing for this weekend's game against the Kings at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and Joseph was not available for comment.
Hansen could not immediately be reached for comment today.