Israel Dagg is set to join the All Blacks' burgeoning casualty ward, with coach Steve Hansen confirming on Thursday that the stalwart winger would need time away from the game.
The 29-year-old injured his knee for the Crusaders in early March and required an operation, only returning to the field in late May.
He went on to play all three British and Irish Lions Tests, as well as a protagonist's role in the Crusaders' Super Rugby triumph, but was rested from the All Blacks' two Bledisloe Cup Tests against Australia.
Characterising his knee niggle as a case of "old man syndrome" last week, Dagg went on to play just under 50 minutes in Saturday's 39-22 win over Argentina.
But the issue appears more serious than Dagg intimated.
Hansen has not selected the 66-Test ace for this weekend's clash with South Africa, and told reporters Dagg's injury prospects were poor.
But the exact timeframe of his recovery remained unclear.
Nehe Milner-Skudder will start in his place, switching from the left wing to the right, while Rieko Ioane will slot into the No.11 jumper.
"We're getting more and more information on that and it doesn't look great at this stage. It looks like he's going to need some time away," Hansen said.
A World Cup-winner and bedrock of the Kiwi back three, Dagg's absence creates yet another conundrum for Hansen, whose players are dropping like flies.
With vice-captain Ben Smith on sabbatical and Jerome Kaino temporarily on the outer, Hansen has also been forced to deal with season-ending injuries to incumbent Test props Joe Moody and Owen Franks.
Aaron Cruden and Charlie Faumuina have also departed for French club rugby, while winger Julian Savea is in the Test wilderness.
Between Smith, Dagg, Moody and Franks, the All Blacks have lost 256 caps of Test experience since their second Bledisloe Cup Test win on August 26.
"We've come out the other side (previously) with surprise packages who've really done well - I don't think this will be any different," Hansen said.
"Someone's misfortune is another guy's opportunity.
"We've got a lot of faith in the systems we have and, whilst some of these guys are very new, they're surrounded by guys that have been around a long time."