It is not unusual for All Blacks to make late starts to Super Rugby. It is, however, jarring to hear the All Blacks captain may miss the opening rounds of next year's competition after undergoing back surgery.
Minor or not, back surgery elevates the seriousness of any situation. Just ask Tiger Woods.
For Kieran Read, the upshot is he faces an extended period flat on his back resting after going under the knife this Saturday.
Read will have surgery on a prolapsed lumbar disc in his back, an injury which has an expected recovery time of approximately four months.
Read first presented issues on the All Blacks northern tour in Edinburgh last month. That week, ahead of their second-to-last test, the All Blacks delayed their team naming to give the 32-year-old time to prove his fitness. He did that in their final training session, playing through the pain of what, at that point, was thought to be a hip flexor problem.
In the post-match press conference at Murrayfield Read looked uncomfortable – his voice breaking at times possibly through a mix of physical exhaustion and pain.
The following week in Cardiff, Read once again struggled to recover. He hobbled around Sophia Gardens, battling to walk, as the rest of the squad trained on the Tuesday. Two days later he was absent from training altogether with the injury now identified as a disc issue that left Read confined to his hotel bed.
Sam Whitelock stepped in to assume the All Blacks captaincy for the first time in final test of the year against Wales, and brother Luke slotted in at No 8.
Since then, Read's problematic disc has not settled and now requires surgery.
Read won't be rushed back for the Crusaders. Given his importance on a national scale a full recovery will be the priority. And given he will spend some time completely off his feet he need to be given a window to regain fitness and conditioning before being thrust back into contact. The All Blacks captain won't be risked.
All Blacks generally return to the respective Super Rugby teams in late January, after their mandated break away from the game. But through that period most maintain a certain standard of fitness through gym and aerobic work thanks to individual programmes put in place by strength and conditioning guru Nic Gill.
Read is no stranger to starting the season late – last year missing the first six games of the year after wrist surgery and then breaking his thumb not long after returning.
Whitelock captained the Crusaders to the Super Rugby title this year but, if Read is ruled out of the early Super Rugby campaign, Scott Robertson could turn to Jordan Taufua, Pete Samu or Tom Sanders at the back of the scrum.
A talented top order batsman, considered by many during his time at Karaka Cricket Club capable of playing for the Black Caps, Read plans to pass the time on his back watching the Black Caps this summer.
"So lucky there's a big summer of cricket coming up as I will be spending plenty of time here over the next few weeks," Read said in a post on social media. "Head in for surgery on a disc in my back on Saturday, which I injured at the end of the season. Hopefully I don't miss too much of the Super Rugby season. I'll get through it thanks to the ACC."