Matt Todd's chest injury has opened the door for a return to the All Blacks for Tanerau Latimer.
Todd damaged a pectoral muscle in his side's 25-19 defeat by Wellington at the Cake Tin on Saturday and while a scan is needed to identify the extent of the problem, it doesn't look good for the 25-year-old, who was in line to fly to Johannesburg if Richie McCaw failed to recover from his knee injury.
Todd left the field with the injury and will be hoping it doesn't need surgery. If so, his chances of making the All Blacks squad for their end-of-year tour to Japan and Europe will be slim.
McCaw yesterday arrived with the rest of the All Blacks squad in Buenos Aires for their test against Argentina on Sunday (NZT), and will continue to rehabilitate his medial ligament problem this week. The plan is for the All Blacks skipper to continue his training under the eye of the medics with a view to playing in his team's final Rugby Championship test against South Africa at Ellis Park a week later, a match likely to be an emotionally charged one following the recent events at Eden Park.
McCaw can run in a straight line but cannot change direction.
If he is ruled out the All Blacks will need a like-for-like replacement to back up Sam Cane and that is likely to be Latimer, who has been preferred ahead of Cane at the Chiefs this year.
Latimer played five tests for the All Blacks in 2009 but hasn't played for the national side since, despite some impressive Super rugby over the past few years. He was a standout for the Chiefs during the latter part of the 2013 season as they defended their title and has continued his good form for a struggling Bay of Plenty ITM Cup outfit recently.
"I've certainly got my fingers crossed for him," Bay of Plenty coach Kevin Schuler said.
"He's been great, he came back and had a rest at the start of the season - we didn't see him for a few games - but he's been going very well. He's very reliable and very consistent. I think the other thing about him is that he can handle any type of pressure or situation. He can play his game under any circumstances."
The injury to Todd, who made his test debut this year against France and also came off the bench as a substitute in the All Blacks' 29-15 victory over the Springboks at Eden Park, has continued a recent bad run for New Zealand No7s. Luke Braid has been struggling with an ankle sprain for Auckland, while Karl Lowe yesterday sprained a hamstring in Hawkes Bay's 18-9 defeat by Tasman in Nelson.
Nineteen-year-old Ardie Savea impressed during Wellington's recent victory which maintained his side's unbeaten record this season, and while he has been mentioned in dispatches by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, he is likely to be considered too inexperienced for a call up to the next level.
Todd's Canterbury teammate Colin Slade also suffered a potentially season-ending injury when leaving the field with a knee problem on Saturday.
The All Blacks will over the next few days concentrate on recovery after spending 15 hours travelling from Auckland to the Argentine capital.
McCaw injured his knee in the first Rugby Championship test between the sides this season - a 28-13 victory in Hamilton a fortnight ago.