Outside back Buxton Popoali'i has withdrawn from the Highlanders for the upcoming Super Rugby season to focus on recovering from surgery planned for later this month.
"Buxton has a longstanding heart condition," Highlanders general manager Roger Clark said. "Recent routine tests have determined he needs further surgery, which he will undergo this month.
"Buxton will take a break from all rugby this year to focus on his recovery.
"While we, and Buxton himself, are devastated at this news, it is clear that he needs to focus entirely on his own health and wellbeing. Buxton is currently feeling and doing well and our medical staff are managing his care.
"Buxton is a very popular member of the Highlanders and we are all supporting him through what is a very difficult time.''