Jahrome Brown could miss the entire Super Rugby AU campaign on compassionate grounds with the ACT Brumbies banking on their back-row depth to offset his departure.
Brown has returned home to New Zealand to be with family but there is an outside chance he returns to the unbeaten competition favourites before the season finishes.
The 23-year-old flanker is contracted to the Brumbies until the end of 2021 with the club expecting to welcome the shy breakdown jackal back in the future.
Brown enjoyed a wild ride in his first Super Rugby campaign last year, thrust into the spotlight after the Brumbies took a shot on the youngster who was climbing ladders to fix roofs in Hamilton for a living.
But for now Brumbies coach Dan McKellar will rely on Will Miller and Tom Cusack to partner Rob Valetini and Lachlan McCaffrey and bolster their title charge.
MORE RUGBY UNION
The Brumbies have now set their sights on a match day road trip to face the Melbourne Rebels at Leichhardt Oval on Friday night.
The third-placed Rebels are desperate to get a foot in the door of the finals picture and Brumbies fullback Tom Banks is bracing for a physical battle with the 80-minute merchants.
The Rebels have played two super time games this season while the Brumbies have jagged three of their four wins late in the piece.
The visitors are showing all the hallmarks of a championship-calibre team - the best teams know how to win ugly. They pull games out of the fire when they've been all but written off.
Now Banks wants the Brumbies to break the shackles and run the Rebels ragged as they look to move one step closer to a home final come September 19.
"We know it's going to be another day of travelling up there. We're used to that and we know what to expect. Melbourne is going to bring a really strong defensive team, so we've got to aim up and match them," Banks said.
"They've been to two super time games now, so we know they're an 80-minute team. We're going to have our hands full, but the focus is more on us this week and trying to get our attacking shape right.
"We probably haven't played our best footy yet. Looking at the second round of this competition and again this week, we've got to start trying to find more attacking shape and really try to put some good phases together so we can build towards that finals competition.
"That's a positive of our group, those ugly games when you come away with the win which is really what you need to do.
"You're not going to play your best footy every game, but those tough games, cold nights, you've really got to just grind out the win."
SUPER RUGBY AU ROUND SIX
Friday: Melbourne Rebels v ACT Brumbies at Leichhardt Oval, 7.05pm.