The Blues will have to make do without their high-profile All Black recruit Ma'a Nonu for the entire Super Rugby pre-season programme and the early rounds of the competition.
However, coach Pat Lam is confident that he would be able to join them for their two-match South African tour in March.
Nonu is spending his 'sabbatical' playing for the Ricoh Black Rams in Japan - unlike other All Blacks who are enjoying an extended break.
Nonu's late arrival in Auckland is dependent on whether the Ricoh Black Rams make the tournament playoffs.
"Ma'a Nonu's club is trucking along well in Japan," Lam said on the Blues' website, adding: "His return depends on how well his team goes before he joins us at the Blues."
The Blues play their first pre-season game when they tackle the Hurricanes in Whangarei on Saturday (February 4), then tackle the Rebels in Melbourne a week later (February 11) and conclude their build-up against the Highlanders in Auckland on February 17.
Their opening match of the season proper is against the Crusaders in Auckland on February 24, before they tackle the Chiefs away a week later.
Nonu looks set to join the team when they head to The Republic early in March - for games against the Bulls (in Pretoria, March 11) and Stormers (Cape Town, March 17).
The Blues fans' first opportunity to see Nonu in Auckland will be for their game against the Hurricanes in Auckland on March 23.
Lam is happy with the team's preparations so far.
"Our All Blacks have now joined us - except for Tony Woodcock and Ma'a Nonu - so we've got 28 players plus the wider training group," Lam said.
"With the All Blacks coming back in, one of the key things they wanted to see was that the other players had set the standard in their absence and that has certainly happened.
"The All Blacks are where the other boys were in November and understandably so. They've had a good recovery period and they won't take long to get back up to speed."
Another recruit from the Hurricanes, scrumhalf Piri Weepu has settled in very well.
"Weepu's first few weeks with the team have been very good; you can see why he is world class," Lam said on the Blues' website.
"He's fitted into the environment very well, he already has a lot of mates in the team and we're really pleased to have him on board. Along with the other All Blacks, they'll need some time to get themselves into their best condition but you can certainly see the reasons why they are such good players.
"As I mentioned Tony Woodcock is not back yet, and as you'll know from last year he had quite a few niggling injuries and was very lucky to make the World Cup team through his injuries and he's still getting over them. He's been a professional player for 10 or so seasons now and he's requested that he miss the South African tour and start later, so while Tony will be training with the team he won't be available to play until round five.
"It's obviously tough to lose someone of that quality but it's a good opportunity for the other younger props. Knowing that, and with John Afoa no longer in the team, I've seen a massive lift in the excitement and work rate of the other prop forwards and I'm confident those guys will do the job for us."
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