Good news for the Highlanders. Not so the Hurricanes.

Dane Coles won't be available for at least the next two weeks, leaving the Super Rugby champions without their captain until a potential semi-final.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen declared Ben Smith fit to return for the Highlanders this week after his concussion symptoms were re-diagnosed as an inner ear problem.

But after over four months on the sideline due to concussion, a conservative approach is being taken with Coles.


The world-class hooker will sit out the Hurricanes' final regular season fixture against the Crusaders in Wellington this weekend, a match which has a huge bearing on finals permutations, and their first knockout game the following week.

"I don't think he'll make their quarter-final but if they make the semi-finals I think he'll be right from a conditioning point of view," Hansen said on Sunday. "He had so much time off. It's totally different from having that time off at the end of the year because you are still active. He had a whole period - three or four months - where he didn't do anything so we've got to graduate him back into training and full contact.

"They've just got to be sensible about that. Mentally he's a tough kid and he'd play tomorrow."

The All Blacks and Hurricanes are on the same page, having twice discussed the best way for Coles to return.

"Between the two operations there's a good plan in place."

Sonny Bill Williams' four-match suspension for his hit on Anthony Watson in Wellington will see him miss the Blues' final match in Tokyo, but with two pre-season games for Counties Manukau factored in he will be free to return for the first Bledisloe Cup showdown in Sydney on August 19.