The Crusaders expect to be without George Bridge for the remainder of Super Rugby Transtasman, after the star outside back underwent surgery to remove his appendix this week.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson confirmed the club were preparing to be without Bridge for the remainder of the competition, with Bridge expected to be sidelined for four to six weeks.
The issue is yet another setback for Bridge, who suffered a pectoral injury in 2020 which saw his late-season campaign with the All Blacks end early, and subsequently spent five months recovering.
"He's had a bit of a tough run - but he's okay," Robertson said.
With the All Blacks set to return in early July, Bridge could be in a race against the clock to prove his fitness for the first test against Tonga in Auckland, having played just six games of professional rugby in 2021.
Bridge is one of three familiar faces who won't be in the team's lineup for this weekend's match against the Reds at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, with lock Scott Barrett still unavailable due to illness, while flanker Tom Sanders is recovering from a fractured nose.
Robertson said Sanders was expected to be available in the fourth round of the campaign, while he was hopeful Barrett would be able to join the team in Australia ahead of their third-round match against the Waratahs in Sydney next weekend.
"He hasn't been that well so the doctor's doing a few tests with him," Robertson said of Barrett. "He was going to get on the plane with us but we decided to keep him home and hopefully he's back with us next week."
In Barrett's absence, Mitchell Dunshea will again start at lock for the clash of champions in Brisbane on Saturday night, with the Australian champion Reds looking to bounce back from an opening-round defeat to the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Robertson said that while the Reds were beaten last time out, the return home would do wonders for them.
"We know how tough it is, especially at the Reds. We know it's a cauldron, we know it's a big occasion, we understand it's the 10-year anniversary of when they pipped us in the final, so we just want to get excited by it.
"What we know about the Reds is they have a lot of guys who can break the game open. They're powerful, they're quick, when they hold the ball or get their kick game right they're good as anyone in the competition, especially in Suncorp.
"They've won some tight ones and they can blow you away if they're right on. They've got some great talent."
Crusaders: Will Jordan, Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor, David Havili, Leicester Fainga'anuku, Richie Mo'unga, Mitchell Drummond, Cullen Grace, Ethan Blackadder, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Samuel Whitelock, Mitchell Dunshea, Oliver Jager, Codie Taylor, George Bower.
Reserves: Brodie McAlister, Tamaiti Williams, Michael Alaalatoa, Quinten Strange, Sione Havili Talitui, Bryn Hall, Dallas McLeod, Manasa Mataele.