Waratahs flyhalf Bernard Foley is could miss close to a month of the Super Rugby season, after suffering a shoulder injury in their final trial on Friday night.
Foley featured in his first Waratahs game of 2016 after a stint with Japanese Top League side, Ricoh Black Rams, but his return was cut short after he was hurt in a tackle.
The Waratahs confirmed on Friday night the Wallabies playmaker could miss 3-4 weeks of the season with the injury, in what shapes as a major blow to their Super Rugby campaign.
If that scenario does eventuate, it would mean Foley could miss local derbies against the Reds and Brumbies, with a possible return in NSW's regular season clash against the Highlanders.
Kurtley Beale appears the likely candidate to fill in at flyhalf in Foley's absence, having trained at 10 for the pre-season and starting in the playmaking position in their final two trials.
Beale impressed again against the Highlanders on Friday, kicking a perfect five from five in front of goals in a tight-fought loss to the reigning champions.
NSW coach Daryl Gibson has lauded Beale's versatility throughout the pre-season, with the backline chameleon having shown his ability in a number of positions.
Utility Bryce Hegarty, who can play fullback or flyhalf, also played a role in the Highlanders match scoring a try for NSW.
In more positive news for the Waratahs, Wallabies fullback Israel Folau made it through the match unscathed in his first outing since off-season ankle surgery.
The Waratahs kick off their Super Rugby season with a clash against the Queensland Reds at Allianz Stadium on Saturday February 27.