Ngani Laumape has been dropped from the Hurricanes' 23-man squad, missing out on a spot in their opening game of the Sky Super Rugby Transtasman competition this weekend.
The move comes after it was announced the star second five-eighth had agreed to a lucrative offer to join French club Stade Francais from July 1. However, Hurricanes coach Jason Holland said the timing was coincidental.
"That's been part of our plan since the back end of the earlier comp, we were looking forward to the Transtasman thinking if we're going to win it, we're not going to be able to go through that with the same 23 every week," he said of Laumape's exclusion.
"The mindset to make sure everyone is fresh and ready to go at the end of the season, we're not going to have the same 23 from week to week. There's going to be three or four guys who will be in and out of the side for the first three or four weeks."
Holland confirmed Laumape would be playing a part in the campaign and his role wouldn't reduce.
"We've always had a plan in place to make sure we get some new guys some game time. I thought you guys might see a bit of a conspiracy theory around that."
Laumape has been an impressive exponent for the Hurricanes since moving to the 15-man code in 2016 after a stint with the Warriors in the NRL, and has become known as one of Super Rugby's most damaging ball runners.
In two seasons of Super Rugby Aotearoa, he led the club in clean breaks and carries in both campaigns, and was among their top two metre eaters in both years. He was also the competition's second-leading try scorer in 2019.
Peter Umaga-Jensen has been named in the No 12 jersey, combining with Billy Proctor in the midfield against the Waratahs in Sydney on Friday night.
With Laumape heading offshore, Umaga-Jensen steps into the fore as the Hurricanes' No 12 of the future. Just 23 years old, Umaga-Jensen caught the eye of All Blacks selectors while playing centre for the Hurricanes in 2020, and earned his debut at international level last year.
Among the other changes for the campaign opener, prop Alex Fidow and lock Isaia Walker-Leawere join the starting XV, while Jonathan Taumateine, Orbyn Leger, Liam Mitchell and Tevita Mafileo all join the reserves.
"We have a number of guys in the squad who have continued to really put their hand up for selection right through our domestic season and we've now given some of them a chance again," Holland said.
"It does genuinely feel like a new competition to us and the fact that we get to front up against Australian opposition after more than a year has added to that.
"We have all wondered how we would shape up against them after that period of time not being able to play against some of our traditional rivals and now that opportunity is really close.
"We managed to have a bit of time off following that last game and the guys have come back together keen to get back into it."
Hurricanes: Jordie Barrett, Julian Savea, Billy Proctor, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Salesi Rayasi, Ruben Love, Luke Campbell, Devan Flanders, Du'Plessis Kirifi, Reed Prinsep, Isaia Walker-Leawere, James Blackwell, Alex Fidow, Dane Coles, Xavier Numia.
Reserves: Asafo Aumua, Tevita Mafileo, Tyrel Lomax, Liam Mitchell, Brayden Iose, Jonathan Taumateine, Orbyn Leger, Pepesana Patafilo.