Highlanders will miss the services of scrum-half Folau Fakatava for the remainder of the ongoing season following a knee injury.
The 21-year-old sustained the blow in the recently concluded encounter against Crusaders where he was replaced in the 50th minute. He will now require a surgery that will sideline him for between nine to 12 months.
Highlanders head coach Tony Brown expressed disappointment on the news especially with Fakatava having enormous growth in his game in the last 12 months that kept him in contention for the All Blacks.
"This is tough on Folau; he's been playing outstanding rugby this season and he must have been in consideration for the All Blacks with his performances in Super Rugby Aotearoa and the Mitre 10 Cup," said Brown.
"We're fortunate that we have an excellent replacement in Kayne Hammington, who has been training hard for an opportunity, he is very experienced and knows our game well."
Fakatava made his Highlanders debut in 2019 and recently signed a contract extension with the club until the end of the 2023 season.
Highlanders are positioned third in the Super Rugby Aotearoa table with two wins from five matches and will face Chiefs in the seventh round at Forsyth Barr Stadium.