Chiefs head coach Colin Cooper has shed light on flanker Sam Cane's recovery schedule from a horror neck injury, giving hope to fans that the All Blacks star could return before the Rugby World Cup in September.
Cane was left in a neck brace for months after a collision with Springboks loose forward Francois Louw in the 35th minute of the All Blacks' comeback victory at Loftus Versfeld in October last year.
In an interview with Radio Sport's D'Arcy Waldegrave, Cooper said he hoped for good news to come back from Cane's meeting with a specialist later this year.
"He goes back to a specialist early April and hopefully they give him the green flag end of April or May," he said.
Cooper also revealed that All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick will join Cane as co-captain of the team.
"We've kept with him (Cane) the whole time. He's a great leader and so he will captain the Chiefs for 2019 and co-captain with Brodie Retallick.
"So while Sam is not playing he'll be doing a lot of the captaincy off the field and Brodie will be leading the team on the field."
Looking ahead to this season, which kicks off with a derby against the Highlanders on February 15, Cooper said the team showed positive signs last year despite being ravaged by injuries – and he looks to carry on that momentum to this year.
"It was a tough injury year in 2018, so we're looking for it to be better and more effective on the field with our players to .
"We've got 31 of the 38 back so there's good continuity there. And we've developed some depth.
"The stats were pretty positive. But again, this club and group and a lot of us being in our second year now is more settled, and understand the culture better and environment better. We're looking to really enhance what we did last year."