Ma’a Nonu has been ruled out of New Zealand’s Vodacom Tri Nations campaign for six weeks with a fractured thumb.
The utility back damaged the base of his left thumb playing club rugby in Wellington on Saturday, and a scan in Christchurch on Monday revealed it will require surgery.
The injury will sideline Nonu for at least New Zealand’s opening three Tri-Nations Tests. Fitness issues would then likely rule him out for the fourth, on 19 August against Australia in Auckland.
Their fifth match of the series is against South Africa in Pretoria on 27 August.
The All Blacks selectors were due to meet on Monday night to discuss naming a replacement.
Nonu’s enforced absence highlights one of the main talking points surrounding the All Blacks this year – who will be entrusted to provide a permanent replacement to retired captain Tana Umaga at centre.
Mils Muliania is expected to wear the No 13 jersey against Australia, with Aaron Mauger at 12.