Scott Robertson won't know if he'll be without his captain for the first month of next year's Super Rugby campaign until after the northern tour.
The Crusaders coach confirmed the prospect of lock Sam Whitelock taking an extended break had been discussed, but "nothing is definite" until he sits down with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen to mull it over later this year.
Whitelock, who guided the Crusaders to their ninth title earlier this year, has started nine of the last 10 All Blacks tests, and is in line for a much-needed spell ahead of a demanding 2019, which includes the World Cup in Japan.
"What's best for Sam, like all our All Blacks who have had long seasons? You've got to manage them," Robertson told media in Christchurch after naming his squad for next year's campaign.
"There's a lot of conversations to be had post the tour, to see how many minutes they've played, how many games they've played. No doubt myself and Steve will sit down and have a chat to see what's best for the individual players, there will be a few of them."
With Super Rugby starting earlier (February 15) next year and running through without a June break, there will be no All Blacks training camps in the middle of the Sanzaar competition.
However, All Blacks will not play any pre-season minutes and, as was the case the past season, they will again be required to sit out at least two competition games.
Robertson's 2019 squad, which includes just five new names, boasts 10 players named in Hansen's primary 32-man squad for the northern tour, while six more were included in the 19 to travel to Japan for Saturday's test against the Brave Blossoms.
"We've got a list of the guys that are going to have an extended break for their rest period. And also you've got to manage on top of that as well, that's part of the [Collective Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding]," Robertson said.
"You get the bye plus two. It's a bit of a sprint next year. There's no June break, we've got a couple of late byes in our draw, so we've got to manage it really well."
Should Whitelock, 29, miss the first month of the season, the Crusaders will be without their skipper for games against the Blues (away), Hurricanes (home), Reds (away) and Chiefs (home).
Missing their leader to start campaigns isn't new to the Crusaders. Former skippers Kieran Read and Richie McCaw both took extended breaks during their time in charge.
World Cup years haven't been particularly kind to the Crusaders in the past, including last time out (2015), when the red and blacks missed the playoffs for the first time in 14 years.
Just one (1999) of their record nine titles was won during a World Cup year, something Robertson, who is gunning for three from three since taking over from Todd Blackadder, acknowledges.
"It [World Cup year] definitely has its challenges. It's actually quite exciting in a lot of ways, a player has the potential to hold up two cups in one year and do something really special," Robertson said.
"I think the motivation and inspiration to do that is key, and it's the role of us as coaches to create that environment that they can do both and see it as a great opportunity, rather than something you could dwell on and make it tough."
AT A GLANCE
2019 Crusaders squad:
Props: Michael Alaalatoa, Harry Allan, Owen Franks, Oliver Jager, Joe Moody, Tim Perry
Hooker: Ben Funnell, Andrew Makalio, Codie Taylor
Locks: Scott Barrett, Quinten Strange, Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock
Loosies: Ethan Blackadder, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Mitchell Dunshea, Billy Harmon, Kieran Read, Tom Sanders, Jordan Taufua, Matt Todd
Halfbacks: Mitchell Drummond, Ereatara Enari, Bryn Hall
First-Fives: Brett Cameron, Mitchell Hunt, Richie Mo'unga
Midfield: Tim Bateman, Ryan Crotty, Jack Goodhue, Ngane Punivai
Outsides: George Bridge, Israel Dagg, David Havili, Braydon Ennor, Leicester Faingaanuku, Will Jordan, Manasa Mataele
New players: Harry Allan, Whetukamokamo Douglas, Brett Cameron, Ngane Punivai, Leicester Faingaanuku.
Departed players: Wyatt Crockett, Mike Delany, Jone Macilai, Jack Stratton (replaced injured Enari last year), Seta Tamanivalu, Pete Samu,