NSW lock Ned Hanigan will miss at least this weekend’s match with the Highlanders, after suffering a knee injury.
Hanigan came off in the 54th minute of NSW’s 31-29 loss to the Crusaders with a medial ligament injury, and flew home in a brace on Sunday, attack coach Chris Malone said.
“We're still waiting on the investigations and stuff, but the reality is... Ned will definitely be out for a couple of weeks, not sure how long,” he said on Monday.
“Ned's (got) an MCL - he got cleaned out from the side and just twisted his knee a bit.
“He's pretty tender and was in a brace coming back from New Zealand yesterday.”
Hanigan’s absence would be a blow for the Waratahs and the Wallabies, just three weeks out from the June Series.
Tom Staniforth the most likely replacement, with youngster Ryan McCauley also in the mix to crack the 23.
Hanigan was one of four players forced off with injury in loss to the Crusaders, but attack coach Chris Malone expects him to be the only one who misses.
Rob Simmons is the other major concern, coming off with a shoulder injury, while Will Miller and Damien Fitzpatrick are expected to recover from concussions in time for Saturday’s clash.
While the Waratahs were left disappointed after letting a 29-point lead slip in Christchurch, Malone said they were positive ahead of Saturday’s match with the Highlanders, after two thrillers against Kiwi sides in recent weeks.
“The reality of the last two weeks is we've had two opportunities to beat both the Blues and the Crusaders, that's the disappointing thing, but some of the things we have displayed in those games were some of the things we were probably criticised for not displaying last year,” he said.
"We probably didn't control the ball as well as we could've liked in terms of our field position after the first 35 minutes.
“(There’s) a couple of things they need to look at and we had such a good start, how do we put the final nail in the coffin?"
They have two more chances to beat a New Zealand side before the June Test break and Malone said a win in one of those would be vital for the team’s confidence.
“It's really important because we know that we have a good football side and we've shown, particularly in the last two weeks, that across the board we've had patches of really good play,” he said.
“There's a good feel in the team - people are not shying away from the fact that we've had a few losses on the trot, but that really if we just stick to what we do in each moment of the game, the outcome will take care of itself."
Malone said the Waratahs still had complete faith in Bernard Foley, despite the playmaker missing two shots late in Saturday’s game.
He also dismissed the idea that Australian teams need to start pushing the envelope more after referees missed two crucial Crusaders offences last weekend.
A Joe Moody strike on Kurtley Beale went unnoticed by the officials, but the prop has since been suspended for two matches for the hit, with commentator Stephen Hoiles suggesting Australian teams need to be more crafty.
"I just think we've just got to play good footy and you've got to play the game," he said.
"You push and you get penalised and you put your team under pressure.
"You've just got to be smart with how you play and we'll continue to play the way we've been playing and we've jut got to piece it together for 80 minutes and I'm sure we'll get the rewards that we've been working hard for if we do that."
The Waratahs take on the Highlanders on Saturday night, kicking off at 7;45pm AEST, LIVE on FOX SPORTS and via RUGBY.com.au RADIO. Buy tickets here.