The Chiefs will be without 20-test All Blacks hooker Nathan Harris for at least the start of the Super Rugby season.
The club's incumbent No2 has been sidelined after having surgery to repair an injured shoulder, with a timetable for his return yet to be established.
A spokesperson for the Chiefs told the Herald Harris was recovering well and would be assessed in the coming weeks at which point the club would have an idea of when the 27-year-old might return to action.
Harris re-signed with New Zealand Rugby and the Chiefs last year until 2021, and noted he had unfinished business in New Zealand.
"I love the Chiefs, I love what they're about," he said after re-signing. "Obviously winning a Super title with the Chiefs is up there, they haven't won one since 2013. Getting one of those under the belt would be pretty awesome.
"To wear the black jersey again would be another pretty cool thing for myself and my family."
With Harris out for at least the start of the season, Samisoni Taukei'aho shapes up as the likely benefactor in terms of playing time, while Bradley Slater could see some minutes off the bench sooner than expected. The hard-running, explosive Taukei'aho has been impressive in his opportunities at Super Rugby level over the past couple of seasons and will be an exciting player to watch should new Chiefs head coach Warren Gatland give him an extended run in the starting side.
The Taranaki product was a member of the Chiefs organisation last year, making his Super Rugby debut as an injury replacement against the Sunwolves. In his first season as a fully contracted Super Rugby player, he could play an early role closing out games in the front row.
The shoulder injury is the latest in a horror run for Harris. He was ruled out of contention for the All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad last year after breaking his leg whole playing for Bay of Plenty in the Mitre 10 Cup, while earlier in the year he was sidelined by a knee injury.
The side will also be without Luke Jacobson for the early season, with the one-test All Blacks flanker yet to get full medical clearance from lingering concussion issues.
Gatland told Radio Sport the club had been managing the 22-year-old's return, after a head knock ruled him out of the Rugby World Cup.
"He's been settling back into a lot of conditioning work and started to do some contact work," Gatland said.
"The aim for Luke is to come in for round three once he's got up to speed with all the fitness and contact work, when he feels comfortable.
"The most important thing is to get a full clearance from the medics. He looks sharp and is pretty excited, and looking really good."
The Chiefs begin their 2020 campaign in a matter of weeks, with a meeting against the Blues at Eden Park on January 31. It will be a new-look Chiefs side this season, with first five-eighth Aaron Cruden returning to the team while lock Brodie Retallick has moved on.