Chiefs fly-half Aaron Cruden could return to action against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday as he is almost fully recovered from a thumb injury.
Cruden, who is currently with the All Blacks training group in Christchurch until Tuesday, has been on the sidelines since sustaining the injury in the Chiefs' 43-43 draw with the Cheetahs in Round Eight.
But he is optimistic of facing the Hurricanes this weekend.
"The thumb seems to be healing pretty well," he told Fairfax Media.
"I had an X-ray yesterday and I talked to the Chiefs doctor and he seems pretty happy with it and hopefully I will take the field in Wellington," Cruden said.
"I have been in Hamilton with the team, just doing my own sort of training.
"We had the bye last week so I want to Bali and sort of got away from it all for a week which has been really nice.
"I got back in the country last night."
With Dan Carter on a sabbatical Cruden, if fully fit, is expected to wear the number 10 jersey for the All Blacks in their upcoming series against England next month.
If selected for the Chiefs this weekend Cruden will face fellow fly-half Beauden Barrett. Their duel will be closely watched by the All Blacks selectors.
"It (the thumb) feels good, it feels nice and strong," Cruden added.
"I got the cast off last week and am just moving it around again. Hopefully next weekend I will be back out on the paddock."
Cruden will start some ball work this week. He expects to be nervous ahead of contact training and said he won't rush back if he feels the thumb was not fully healed.
"But by all accounts the doctors are pretty happy with how it's healing and how it's formed and we'll be into it next week."