Waikato Chiefs' Cruden out with broken thumb
Aaron Cruden (C) of the Waikato Chiefs is tackled by Willem Alberts of the Coastal Sharks during their Super 15 rugby union match, in Hamilton, on August 4, 2012 - by Marty Melville
In a major dent to the Chiefs' hopes of securing three titles in a row, the 25-year-old had an X-ray following the 43-43 draw in Bloemfontein which confirmed his left thumb was fractured.
The estimated recovery period also puts Cruden in doubt for the opening match of New Zealand's three-Test series against England, which begins on June 7 in Auckland.
He is regarded as the heir apparent to Dan Carter, who is currently unavailable for the All Blacks as he enjoys a sabbatical designed to extend his playing career through to next year's World Cup.
If both Cruden and Carter are absent, the Wellington Hurricanes' Beauden Barrett is regarded as the next most likely candidate to play pivot against England, although he has only 16 Test caps, 14 of them from the bench.