Seven months after breaking his neck in a test against South Africa last year All Black flanker Sam Cane is set to return to the field.
Cane has been named in the reserves for the Chiefs super rugby match against the Blues in Auckland on Saturday night as both sides battle to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The 27-year-old Cane suffered a fracture in a vertebrae on the right side of the neck playing against the Springboks in Pretoria in October.
He wore a brace for three months after surgery and got the all clear to resume contact training early last month.
Emergency surgery found there was no nerve damage and a gradual rehabilitation culminated in a return to contact work last month.
The Chiefs co-captain now faces a battle to reclaim the Test No.7 jersey he had owned since Richie McCaw's retirement in 2015 World Cup glory.
Hurricanes openside rival Ardie Savea has been in stellar form and may now have his nose in front to start at this year's Rugby World Cup. Both players, if fit, are certainties to attend the tournament.
Chiefs coach Colin Cooper is still without injured All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick so has again handed in-form halfback Brad Weber the captaincy.
Prop Angus Ta'avao will start in his 100th Super Rugby match.
Sonny Bill Williams (knee) remains absent for the Blues, who are desperate to end a 15-match winless run against their northern rivals.
The Blues have lost their last four games after a promising start to the season and boast a dreadful record in New Zealand, having won just three of their last 35 such fixtures.
Both teams are languishing at the bottom of the New Zealand conference with four wins each and in danger of slipping from finals contention.