As many as eight All Blacks are set to miss the opening rounds of the Super Rugby season as part of the country's player-management plan.
The draw for 2015's Super Rugby season has been released, with defending champions the Waratahs hosting Western Force in Round 1.
The Highlanders have been handed a big boost with the news that All Black scrum-half Aaron Smith has signed a new two-year contract.
Cross-code star and Rugby World Cup winner Brad Thorn has reportedly signed for Premiership side Leicester Tigers.
Scrum power and defiance eventually shone through for the Sharks as they squeezed past the Highlanders 31-27 in Durban.
Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph remained coy about the Sharks' chances of winning Saturday's semi-final against the Crusaders.
The Sharks will be carrying the hopes of a nation as they look to salvage South Africa's Super Rugby season in Durban on Saturday.
Ben Smith returns to rugby as the Highlanders name their squad to tackle the South African Conference champion Sharks in Durban.
The Highlanders still have an outside chance to top the New Zealand Conference. But they have to beat the Crusaders.
All Blacks scrum-half Aaron Smith has agreed to stay in New Zealand with the Highlanders beyond the current Super Rugby season.
All Black full-back Ben Smith has been ruled out of the Highlanders' crucial clash with the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday.
Highlanders manager Graham Purvis says Ben Smith should return home on Wednesday after being hospitalised with a leg infection.
Highlanders and New Zealand star full-back Ben Smith has remained behind in Sydney for treatment on a leg infection.
The Waratahs wrapped up top spot in Super Rugby's regular-season as they overpowered the Highlanders 44-16 in Sydney on Sunday.
Highlanders' head coach Jamie Joseph has named his team to take on the current Super Rugby leaders, the Waratahs in Sydney.
Former Tonga second row and captain Inoke Afeaki is optimistic Singapore can secure the soon to be open spot in Super Rugby.