Luke Romano's calf injury has forced him to miss the Crusaders' trip to South Africa.
All Blacks lock Romano limped from the field early in the Crusaders' 26-29 defeat to the Hurricanes in Christchurch on Friday and the early international departure the next day meant the team decided to take back-up Jimmy Tupou instead.
The Crusaders, struggling with only two victories from five games - including two home defeats - play the Lions in Johannesburg next weekend and the Cheetahs at Port Elizabeth a week later.
Points are becoming extremely important for Todd Blackadder's team, who are last in the New Zealand conference and 13th overall.
The injury to Romano, a crucial lineout winner and ball carrier for the Crusaders, has compounded his team's woes.
The Lions are second in the South Africa conference and fourth overall, which suggests they will present a stern challenge to the Crusaders at Ellis Park.
Although the Cheetahs sit dead last, Blackadder's men have a habit of losing in Port Elizabeth and their bumbling efforts this season suggest they have no right to take any team lightly.
One piece of good news is that captain Kieran Read, who also left the field early against the Hurricanes, has made the trip.
Read, in his 100th game for the Crusaders, was quickly taken off by doctor Deb Robinson because of a head knock but a team spokeswoman said the No8 had shown no ill effects.
Halfback Willi Heinz has recovered from a calf problem and has made the trip.