Brodie Retallick has revealed an injury sustained in the Chiefs match against the Crusaders in early June could have seen him miss the rest of the season.
The star lock fractured the coracoid process in his right shoulder, which saw him miss six weeks of action. The difference between a fracture and a full break is a slim one, but had he broken it, he would have been kept from the pitch for up to six months.
"I woke up on the Monday after it happened, the Crusaders game, in All Blacks camp thinking it was pretty good in terms of pain there wasn't much at all," Retallick said. "But I had the scan and I showed the fracture so it was six weeks.
The coracoid process is a structural feature of the shoulder bone which serves as the attachment site for a number of muscles and ligaments in the upper body, including pectoral and bicep muscles.
After a six week layoff, Retallick was cleared to return for the side this weekend against the Hurricanes. The Chiefs go into it with a slim chance of claiming a home quarter-final – needed a 23-point win to overtake the fourth-placed Hurricanes.
While Retallick would be available for the match, fellow Chiefs Sam Cane (concussion), Damian McKenzie (All Blacks stand down week) and Sean Wainui (shoulder) were are set to be left out of the final regular season match.
Coach Colin Cooper said with their spot in the playoffs already booked, there was no point in risking Cane, who was cleared to play after picking up a head knock in the side's win over the Brumbies at the weekend.
"Sam's not a hundy," Cooper said. "He passed his tests, but he's still not where he should be."
The Chiefs made an interesting call in leaving McKenzie's last All Blacks stand down week for the final round. With fourth place still a possibility, the Chiefs will try to knock over the Hurricanes without their attacking star.
Cooper said it came down to making sure they had their best team on the field over the past two weeks in what he deemed to be must-win games.
"We needed to beat the Highlanders and we needed to beat the Brumbies, and we couldn't leave Damian out," he said.
"To the critics who think we should have rested Damian earlier, we'd have loved to. We just didn't have the time with losing players, the inexperience of the guys coming in next, we needed to have our most experienced and talented players to help them."
It would be a big surprise to see the Chiefs beat the Hurricanes by enough points to see them secure fourth place, and Cooper said that wasn't how the team were thinking in the lead up to Friday's game. The match shapes up as the last at home in a Chiefs jersey for a number of players, including their most-capped stalwart Liam Messam.
"We still want to just go as hard as we can to try and win the game without a whole lot of if they do this and we do that – I don't like a lot of clutter, I like having a real aim and a goal of what we've trying to do, and that is to farewell these boys if it is their last game in Hamilton."