Blues hooker Keven Mealamu will return home to New Zealand after failing to overcome a calf injury.
The veteran Blues and All Blacks centurion was forced to withdraw from last week's match against the Bulls in Pretoria after suffering a low-grade calf strain late in the week and the injury failed to respond quickly enough for him to be in the frame for Saturday's game against the Lions at Ellis Park.
The Blues opted to send him home to prepare for next week's game against the Cheetahs at Eden Park and he will have a scan on his troublesome left calf on Friday.
"I'm pretty disappointed and really gutted that I'm not able to stay on with the team,'' Mealamu said. "It's just one of those things. I really want to help the team out but I can't do that unless I'm 100 per cent so I'm looking to head home tomorrow afternoon and get it right so that I can get back and get stuck into it again soon.
"I'm hoping to be back for the Cheetahs game so I'm close to being back out there, I just want to make sure it's right so I can give 100 per cent for the team.''
Blues coach Sir John Kirwan conceded Mealamu was a big loss to the side ahead of this weekend's clash with the Lions.
"It's a real blow for us,'' Kirwan said. "Kevvie is our matai, our leader, and he's great to have around the place. Even when he's not playing he really contributes so we'll miss him but we've just got to make sure we cover his position by bringing in a reserve and I would have loved to have kept him but we can't.
"He just got a little strain in his calf and when you're a front rower that's like a sprinter having a hamstring problem so we're just erring on the side of caution because we want to make sure Kevvie is with us for most of the season. We've decided to protect him a wee bit, send him home and not take the risk because if he blows it he'll be out for 12 or so weeks.''
Auckland ITM Cup and Blues development hooker Gafatasi Su'a has been called up to replace Mealamu and will board a flight to Johannesburg tomorrow.