Hurricanes skipper Conrad Smith only returned to training on Tuesday and might not be fit enough to play in his team's opening Super Rugby clash with the Stormers in Cape Town.
The All Black outside centre has recently returned from his post-World Cup travels which saw him backpack around the globe after clinching the Webb Ellis trophy, in a special agreement with the Hurricanes and the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU).
That agreement was in place long before he was appointed captain, so his late arrival at training would not have come as a surprise to team management, but the reality is that he faces some hard work if he is to be in the right physical shape to take on the Stormers on February 25 at Newlands.
He told Fairfax media: "Originally, when I first arranged this [holiday] a couple of years ago, it was likely I'd take a few weeks to get back into things. But a lot has changed within the side in the two years since I organised this trip.
"I've only just started training so normally you take a little while," he said. "I'm not ruling it out. I've just got to see how the body is. If I'm not right, if I'm still a yard off the pace, there's no point. But obviously I'd love, especially being captain, to be out there early on."
The Hurricanes said goodbye to key backline players in Ma'a Nonu, Aaron Cruden and Hosea Gear at the end of last season, and if Smith is not fit they face a daunting start to their campaign this year as they will have to travel to take on the Stormers, Lions and Western Force without their leader.
With inside backs Tusi Pisi and Tim Bateman still playing in Japan the Hurricanes backline is stretched pretty thin, which makes their prospects of getting the new season off to a solid start pretty tough.
However, despite these difficulties Smith said that there is a good spirit in the squad who are determined to bounce back from last year's diappointing campaign.
"I'm not saying things aren't going to be tough ... but I love the attitude already and that's all you can ask from a team, especially when you lack a bit of experience. A good attitude will get you a long way," he said.
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