The All Blacks were dealt another massive injury scare on Wednesday after Brodie Retallick was ruled out of the Chiefs' Super Rugby clash at the weekend with a hand injury.
The 73-test lock picked up the injury in the Chiefs' thrilling 33-29 victory over the Blues in Hamilton on Saturday night. He is one of four injury-enforced changes to the Chiefs lineup for Friday's encounter with the Lions.
News of Retallick's unavailability follows only days after All Blacks utility back Damian McKenzie was ruled out of the World Cup in Japan later this year.
Chiefs assistant coach Tabai Matson was, however, confident that Retallick would recover in time to face the Hurricanes next weekend.
"He hit the ground awkwardly [against the Blues] but he's had a couple of big scans and it looks positive," Matson told Radio Sport's D'Arcy Waldegrave.
"The scans haven't show anything like a broken hand but he's pretty sore and swollen. So he'll have a breather as a result."
Retallick only returned to captain the Chiefs last weekend after two weeks off – missing the match against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires as part of his All Blacks rest policy before also putting his feet up during the Chiefs bye the following week.
"There's got to be a little bit of blood for the rugby gods to get your results. We're happy to get it over the line [against the Blues] but it's definitely cost us. There will be some repercussions over that but a lot of boys got dinged up and it was a brutal game," Matson said.
McKenzie, who was a key part of All Blacks coach Steve Hansen's World Cup plans, was ruled out for up to nine months after he injured the ACL in his right knee early against the Blues.
"He leaves a massive hole. So much of our play derives from his decision making or just his electric feet," Matson said. "Hell be sorely missed. He's still got see some specialists… but it's a pretty significant injury. It's a massive loss for us."
The Chiefs will also be without hooker Nathan Harris and winger Solomon Alaimal against the South Africans.
Liam Polwart will pack down in the front row for the first time this season while Ataata Moeakiola replaces Alaimalo on the left wing.
The Hurricanes meanwhile will be without three of their star All Blacks for the clash against the Sunwolves on Friday, but arrive in Tokyo refreshed after a much-needed bye.
Coach John Plumtree has made four changes to the side that edged the Highlanders 31-28 in round eight, with Beauden and Jordie Barret, along with Ardie Savea sitting out on an All Blacks rest week.
Single-cap All Black Matt Proctor returns to the midfield alongside Ngani Laumape, while Fletcher Smith steps in for Beauden Barrett at No10.
The other changes to the starting lineup sees Du'Plessis Kirifi step in for the in-form Savea and lock Liam Mitchell replacing Kane Le'aupepe.
After eight straight matches to start their season – including five grueling New Zealand derbies – the Hurricanes welcomed a bye before travelling to Japan.
Plumtree was comforted by the two-week break, saying it gave the players a chance to freshen up.
"There is no doubt the bye came at a good time for the squad which played 10 games in a row when you include our pre-season matches," Plumtree said.
"The players came back into work on Saturday and they have enjoyed a freshen up. They are really looking forward to facing a Sunwolves side who are also fresh off the bye and will be looking for a good performance in front of their home crowd."
It has been a mixed bag for the Hurricanes so far this season, showing glimpses of brilliance while also disappointing in many areas.
The Hurricanes' lineout, in particular, has been an area of weakness for Plumtree's side, showcased in their last game against the Highlanders where they won just 3/8 lineouts.
Plumtree will be hoping their lineout percentage (80.7) – the second-worst in the competition – will improve against the Sunwolves who themselves have had their set-piece struggles.
The Hurricanes head into the match second in the New Zealand conference with five wins, two losses, and a draw.
Hurricanes squad to face the Sunwolves
15 Chase Tiatia
14 Wes Goosen
13 Matt Proctor
12 Ngani Laumape
11 Ben Lam
10 Fletcher Smith
9 TJ Perenara (c)
8 Reed Prinsep
7 Du'Plessis Kirifi
6 Vaea Fifita
5 Liam Mitchell
4 James Blackwell
3 Ben May
2 Ricky Riccitelli
1 Fraser Armstrong
16 Asafo Aumua
17 Xavier Numia
18 Jeff To'omaga-Allen
19 Isaia Walker-Leawere
20 Sam Henwood
21 Richard Judd
22 James Marshall
23 Billy Proctor
Chiefs squad to face the Lions
15 Jack Debreczeni
14 Sean Wainui
13 Alex Nankivell
12 Anton Lienert-Brown
11 Ataata Moeakiola
10 Marty McKenzie
9 Brad Weber (c)
8 Taleni Seu
7 Lachlan Boshier
6 Luke Jacobson
5 Mitchell Brown
4 Tyler Ardron
3 Nepo Laulala
2 Liam Polwart
1 Angus Ta'avao
16 Samisoni Taukei'aho
17 Atu Moli
18 Sosefo Kautai
19 Jesse Parete
20 Pita Gus Sowakula
21 Jonathan Taumateine
22 Tumua Manu
23 Shaun Stevenson