Crusaders prop Joe Moody has joined an ever-growing list of All Blacks sidelined by injury.
The 30-year-old loosehead will miss the red and blacks' fixture against the Stormers in Cape Town on Sunday morning (NZT) due to the knee injury he sustained against the Bulls last weekend.
Moody, who was forced off early in the second half and required stitches to repair a deep gash to his left-knee, returned home to Christchurch this week to mend.
Speaking from Cape Town on Thursday night (NZT), Crusaders coach Scott Robertson called Moody a "potential option" to play the Blues at Christchurch Stadium Saturday week.
That's better news than Robertson dished on utility back Will Jordan, who could miss the rest of the regular season with the foot injury he picked up against the Sharks a fortnight ago.
Nevertheless, it's another frustration for Moody, who had put an injury-riddled 18 months behind him to start nine of the Crusaders' 11 games (not including cancelled fixture against Highlanders in March) this season.
He joins fellow All Blacks and Crusaders props Owen Franks (shoulder) and Tim Perry (arm) on the sideline. Other injured All Blacks include Damian McKenzie (knee), Ben Smith (hamstring), Dane Coles (calf), Sonny Bill Williams (knee) and Brodie Retallick (wrist).
Moody has this week been replaced by first-year Crusader George Bower, who will make his first start (fourth appearance) of the season.
"George is extremely excited. He's been exceptional ever since he came into the group. He's taken every opportunity. He can scrum, he's great around the field. He's a great pick up for us. Just works extremely hard, so we're excited to give him that opportunity," Robertson said. The enforced inclusion of Bower is one of just three changes Robertson has made to the starting side which dismantled the Bulls in Pretoria last week.
Having missed the team's last two games while on parental leave, captain Sam Whitelock replaces Mitch Dunshea and will start alongside lock Scott Barrett, while blindside flanker Ethan Blackadder has pushed Jordan Taufua to the bench and will make just his second start (third appearance) this year.
Bringing back Whitelock is a real luxury for Robertson as his team attempts to take another step towards locking up the top-seed and the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs which comes with it.
Ahead of the Crusaders' first game in Cape Town since 2013, the 30-year-old has only played five games (four starts) this season.
"It's been an interesting season for Sam," Robertson said. "He's definitely going to be fresh for the rest of the season and the back end of it. It's just the way it's worked out for him with playing minutes and stuff. But he's been his diligent self. He's a great captain, a great leader and it's great to have him back."
The Crusaders have won 15 of their last 17 matches against the Stormers, including the last seven, and have not lost to them since 2010.
Should they take care of business on Sunday, they will join the Blues (2002-2005) as the only overseas teams to win six consecutive Super Rugby games on South African soil.
Crusaders: David Havili, Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Bryn Hall, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Ethan Blackadder, Sam Whitelock (captain), Scott Barrett, Michael Alaalatoa, Codie Taylor, George Bower. Reserves: Andrew Makalio, Harry Allan, Oliver Jager, Luke Romano, Jordan Taufua, Mitchell Drummond, Mitch Hunt, Braydon Ennor.