The blockbusting Hurricanes star took to social media on Sunday to notify his followers that he would be out of action for five to six months as he undergoes knee surgery next week.
However, Hurricanes chief executive Avan Lee said his franchise’s star man could return two to three months earlier than first anticipated.
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“There’s an issue with his cartilage and there is a bit of speculation about how long he will be out for, but you never really know until the surgeon has operated and seen the real extent of the issue,” he told Stuff.
“The prognosis at this stage is best-case scenario he’s back playing in three months, but it could be five or six months.
“We’re not holding to any date because some people heal well, some people have complications post-surgery, some people come back quicker than others. You’ve got to be really careful about putting a date on it.”
While Savea’s presence in the loose forward mix will be sorely missed, it’s not as if the Hurricanes will be without any sturdy reinforcements during his absence.
At blindside flanker, 11-test international Vaea Fifita will lead the charge to stake a claim in the starting side, although the hard-hitting Reed Prinsep and Hawke’s Bay rookie Devan Flanders will act as a strong challengers for the No. 6 jersey.
Prinsep and Flanders can both also play No. 8, where ex-Blues bruiser Murphy Taramai will look to make his mark after a season with the Colorado Raptors in the Major League Rugby competition in the United States.
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The Hurricanes have little under two months to determine their best loose forward trio before their season kicks-off, but they may have to do so without their head coach John Plumtree, who has been strongly linked with an All Blacks assistant coaching position under Ian Foster, should he win the job ahead of Scott Robertson.
Should he win promotion into the national set-up, assistant coach Jason Holland stands as the primary candidate to take over the head coach responsibilities after having been with the Hurricanes since 2016, but Lee said he will keep as many options available as possible.
“Obviously we’ve got some good coaches already, and realistically to go to the market now for a competition that’s already in it’s pre-season would be incredibly difficult,” he told Stuff.
“There are people on the market, but to bring someone in cold would be pretty challenging, and like I said we’ve got some really good people who are already here, been through planning and known by the team.”
The Hurricanes get their 2020 Super Rugby campaign underway against the Stormers in Cape Town on February 1.
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