Crusaders centre Robbie Fruean has withdrawn from the remainder of the Super Rugby season to undergo more heart surgery.
The 24-year-old had open-heart surgery in 2009 following a bout of rheumatic fever and now requires another valve replacement.
The Crusaders say Fruean's cardiac function has been slowly deteriorating over the last six months and his specialist has recommended surgery.
Crusaders doctor Deborah Robinson says Fruean is otherwise fit and healthy which should help his recovery.
Coach Todd Blackadder says if the surgery goes well he has no doubt Fruean will be back playing for the Crusaders next year.
Following the operation Fruean is likely to be in hospital for four to five days and is expected to start gentle exercise within six weeks of his recovery.