The Queensland Reds are poised to rush Wallabies breakaway Liam Gill back from injury as they attempt to dig their way out of a deepening Super Rugby hole.
Gill tore his hamstring five weeks ago but is with the Reds in Wellington and looms as a crucial reinforcement for Friday night's Eden Park clash with the Blues.
Queensland are also sweating on results of scans to Will Genia's ankle after the Wallaby test halfback limped off Wellington's Westpac Stadium in their 35-21 loss to the Hurricanes on Saturday night.
It was their third straight defeat - their worst streak since 2009 - and a performance which offered little comfort for fans worrying they've seen the end of an era.
The 2011 champions have fallen with a huge thud since the departure of former coach Ewen McKenzie and now sit a gloomy last on the Australian conference.
While early signs were concerning as the Reds started 2-2 in a tough opening month, they've unravelled since Gill was a casualty in the controversial 23-20 loss to the Lions in Johannesburg.
The 15-test openside, among the best ball pilferers in the business, has been sorely missed as Queensland's defensive system has disintegrated.
It was a bedrock of their success in the past three seasons, and a major strength in 2013 when they were four points - less than one try - from being the best defensive team of the competition.
Head coach Richard Graham had defence coaching responsibilities under McKenzie in 2013 and argued the problem stemmed from players failing to trust the system.
Rookie winger Jamie-Jerry Taulagi was twice exposed in the first half for Cory Jane to stroll over, but the damage had initially been done before his poor reads.
The Reds have now conceded 10 tries in their last three losses and are the third-worst defensive team in the competition.
"We have to believe the defensive system is a strength, because the solution is ultimately in the group," Graham said. "And individuals are not going to get you the result."
With pressure growing for an immediate turnaround, Graham is giving little away about potential changes. "It's fair to say we have a lot of work to do," he said.