Influential Highlanders No.8 Nasi Manu will miss most of the rest of the season due to a foot injury he picked up against the Chiefs last week.
The physical loose forward dislocated a ligament in his foot during his team's Super Rugby opener against the defending champions in Dunedin and underwent surgery on Monday.
He faces at least three months on the sidelines, which means that he may not feature for the Highlanders again this season.
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph confirmed that Manu will not be available for the foreseeable future, but added that it presents an opportunity for someone else to step up.
He told Sportal: "He is going to have a long spell on the sideline.
"It is extremely bad luck for Nasi but there is an opportunity for someone else to come along and make the position their own," Joseph said.
The Highlanders boss has not called up a replacement as he believes he has adequate cover within the squad.
The Highlanders have a bye this week, with their next fixture against the Cheetahs at Invercargill for which skipper Andrew Hore is expected to be fit.