The Crusaders centre Robbie Fruean has withdrawn from the remainder of the Super Rugby Season as he has to undergo heart surgery.
The 24-year-old requires another valve replacement as a result of the rheumatic fever he contracted four years ago.
The Crusaders say Fruean's cardiac function has been slowly deteriorating over the last six months and his specialist has recommended surgery.
The Crusaders Doctor Deborah Robinson says Fruean is otherwise fit and healthy which should help his recovery.
The Coach Todd Blackadder says if the surgery goes well he has no doubt Fruean will be back playing for the Crusaders next year
Fruean underwent open-heart surgery in 2009 when he was diagnosed as having pancarditis following a bout of rheumatic fever.
In 2010, he was the joint leading try scorer in the national provincial championship and was named the player of the year in 2010 and 2012.
Following surgery Fruean is likely to be in hospital for 4-5 days and it is expected that he can start gentle exercise within six weeks of surgery.