All Blacks hooker Dane Coles' long and frustrating wait on the sidelines with his latest injury is nearly over; he has been named to start for his Wellington club Poneke tomorrow.
Dogged by several issues over the last few years, including concussion, Achilles and knee problems, Coles has been unavailable for the Hurricanes since mid-March due to a calf injury.
His comeback in the red and black hoops of his club team against Petone at the Petone Rec is another step in the right direction for a player eager to make another World Cup.
In a twist, his main All Black rival Codie Taylor is set to miss the next four weeks for the Crusaders – the rest of the regular season - due to a broken finger.
Coles' return will please All Blacks coach Steve Hansen as well as Hurricanes coach John Plumtree, whose team have a bye this weekend, because Coles' quality and experience will be crucial for the Hurricanes in the playoffs and the All Blacks in Japan, in particular.
Despite their week off, the Hurricanes are guaranteed to stay in fourth place on the Super Rugby table and the second best team in the New Zealand conference behind the Crusaders this weekend.
A graduated return to the top level via a club game mostly out of the public eye probably suits the 32-year-old Coles, who has played 60 tests, but has endured some terrible misfortune in terms of injuries. In 2017, he feared for his career because of concussion symptoms which meant he couldn't attend matches due to the crowd noise let alone play in them.
Earlier this month, Hurricanes coach Plumtree refused to put a date on Coles' possible return for his side.
"I'm putting absolutely no pressure on Colesy, and I don't want him putting pressure on himself," Plumtree said.
"Holding him back's not easy, trust me. He's the type of character that just wants to get going. He's pretty frustrated and annoyed, but we've been through that now. It's just a case of 'if we see you in a couple of weeks great, if we see you in three weeks great, if we see you in a month, great'. We definitely want to see him again and we will, but we want to make sure there's no time limit on it.
"He's just got to make sure that when he comes back he's feeling really good and that he can play a part for the rest of the year hopefully without re-injuring that calf muscle."
Asafo Aumua and Ricky Riccitelli have been swapping the hooker duties in Coles' absence.
Should the Hurricanes retain fourth position on the table after the regular season, and they have three left, starting with the Sharks in Durban next weekend, they are in line to play the Crusaders in a Super Rugby semifinal in Christchurch should both teams win their quarter-finals.
If Coles gets through his run against Petone unharmed, he will hope to make the Hurricanes' trip to South Africa. They also play the Lions in Johannesburg and finish their regular season with a home match against the Blues.