Blues recruit Otere Black will miss the majority of next year's Super Rugby season after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament for Manawatu.
Black, who signed with the Blues through to 2019 from the Hurricanes this year, injured his knee in Manawatu's 46-25 Ranfurly Shield loss to Taranaki in New Plymouth on Wednesday night.
Manawatu coach Jeremy Cotter confirmed first five-eighth Black had done his ACL; an injury which typically requires six-to-nine months recovery. The Super Rugby season starts in late February and runs through to July.
Black is now the most experienced playmaker on the Blues' books and was, therefore, signed to guide the team from next year.
Taranaki first-five Stephen Perofeta will now be favoured to start at No 10 for the Blues, with North Harbour's Bryn Gatland likely to deputise.
Perofeta also injured his ankle in Wednesday's Shield defence but Taranaki coach Colin Cooper said X-rays revealed the damage was only bruising.
The injury comes at a cruel time for Black. Stuck behind Beauden Barrett at the Hurricanes for two seasons, the 22-year-old's move to the Blues was designed to give him much more game-time and the chance to properly make his mark.
Now the New Zealand Maori pivot faces the prospect of making a mid-season comeback or sitting out the entire campaign while others step into the breach.
Perofeta made a good fist of his starting debut for the Blues against the British and Irish Lions at Eden Park last year and has since grown in confidence with Taranaki this season.
While the 20-year-old is far from the finished product, he is light on his feet, possesses a dangerous running game, and is considered a handy talent by national selectors.
Now, with Black sidelined and the Blues No 10 jersey up for grabs, Perofeta has even more reason to carry his strong form into the Mitre 10 Cup playoffs.