Dan Carter running out for the Blues in a Super Rugby Aotearoa match was just days away from being a reality. Now, it's something that might never happen.
The long-time Crusaders No 10 and 112-match All Black was named to make his debut for the Blues against the Hurricanes in round six of the Super Rugby Aotearoa season, but was withdrawn from the final team sheet after succumbing to a calf injury leading into the match.
For the past few weeks, the 38-year-old has been rehabilitating the injury and began doing some running last week.
In a question and answer session in Instagram, Carter gave no indication of when he might return, but admitted he had no expectations of getting any game time when he joined the club on a short-term deal as an injury replacement for Stephen Perofeta.
"I wasn't really expecting to (play) to be honest, unless there was an injury to Beauden (Barrett) or Otere (Black)," Carter admitted. "Both of those boys have been on fire over the past couple of months, so I'm happy to just contribute and helping out the team whatever way I can.
"I've had a good week; been getting a little bit of running under the belt and the calf is feeling good. Old man calves, they take a bit longer than they used to back when I was a young fella so you've just got to be patient with these things."
After the Blues' round eight 32-21 win over the Highlanders in Dunedin yesterday, they only have one game left to play, with a bye next week. If results go their way, that will be a game against the Crusaders which could decide the competition.
Taking a bonus-point win over the Highlanders, the Blues sit just two points behind the Crusaders in the standings, but with the Crusaders having a game in hand, the Auckland club will be hoping the Highlanders tip up the competition leaders in the penultimate round of the season next week. With no post-season, whoever sits at the top of the table after 10 rounds claims the title.
The Blues and Crusaders meet in the final match of the competition, and to have the title on the line in that match is a promoter's dream.
It would also be a poetic arena for Carter to make his debut for the Blues, which would likely be little more than a short cameo off the bench. However, assistant coach Tana Umaga said Carter would not be considered if he wasn't fully fit.
"We're not going to put him out there and he's not going to put himself out there if he's not 100 per cent. I don't think that's fair to him, fair to the team or fair to the people.
"He knows his body better than anyone. We don't want to risk that and he doesn't want to do that either."