Ma'a Nonu has joined up with his new Blues teammates, but he is unlikely to make an appearance on the field until they arrive in South Africa for a two-match Super Rugby tour.
The All Black midfielder was in the stands for the Blues 18-19 loss to the Crusaders at Eden Park on Friday, having just arrived back from his off-season stint in Japan.
However, Blues coach Pat Lam says they won't be rushing him back.
He says Nonu won't play against the Chiefs next week, unless they really need him, and he will likely play his first game in South Africa - where the Blues face the Bulls (in Pretoria on March 10) and Stormers (in Cape Town) six days later.
Nonu said he played all but one game in Japan, but was feeling okay.
"It's probably about the same level as NPC [New Zealand interprovincial]," he said of the standard in Japan.
"There are a lot of overseas players there."
Lam said an appearance against the Chiefs in Hamilton next Friday is out of the question.
"Most likely [in South] Africa," Lam said of Nonu's likely debut.
"It's a long season and it's more important [to wait] until Ma'a's ready. We're playing next Friday so it's a quick turnaround."
Nonu left New Zealand shortly after the World Cup for a "sabbatical" in Japan, where he played for the Ricoh Black Rams.
The 29-year-old played 110 matches for the Hurricanes before new coach Mark Hammett deemed him to be a malignant dressing-room presence last season and cut ties with him.
The 63-test veteran took his place in the Blues box to watch his new teammates lose by a fingernail against the Crusaders.
On Friday the mercurial Rene Ranger was paired with Benson Stanley in the centres. Stanley is a strong defender and smart player, but he lacks Nonu's raw power and ability to beat a man.
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