Wellington - The All Blacks will seek a new scrumhalf for the northern hemisphere tour after Tawera Kerr-Barlow was ruled out for at least six months with a serious knee injury.
Kerr-Barlow will have surgery in New Zealand after tearing knee ligaments in a heavy clash with Springbok wing JP Pietersen after coming off the bench during the All Blacks' 27-25 loss in Johannesburg.
"He needs an operation when we get home. Sometimes they do two operations but he's about a six-to-nine month recovery so it's pretty major," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said on the team's website.
Counties Manukau's Augustine Pulu and North Harbour and Blues halfback Bryn Hall are among candidates to replace Kerr-Barlow in the squad for matches against Australia in Brisbane and the subsequent tour to the United States and Europe.
Utility back Ben Smith will be rested for the Bledisloe Cup dead rubber against Australia in two weeks after playing every minute of the Rugby Championship, Hansen added.
The move could mean veteran Cory Jane or speedster Charles Piutau come in on the wing against Australia.
The All Blacks retained the trophy contested annually with Australia courtesy of a 51-20 mauling at Eden Park in August.
Dan Carter's fitness remains a quandary for Hansen after the team's premier flyhalf strained a calf to miss out on more provincial rugby in his comeback from a broken leg.
"We were hoping he'd get another (game) and then probably take him to Brisbane," Hansen told New Zealand media.
"I'll have to have a chat to him when we get home to see where he is at and see whether we give him another game, miss the Brisbane one and he plays again if Canterbury make the semi-finals or finals.
"We want to bring him in when he's feeling confident rather than trying to bring him in and play his way through something.
"We did that for him last time and it became a nightmare. If we can bring him in when he's injury free and confident in himself we'll get the real Dan Carter."
Carter's continued absence may mean a quick reinstatement for flyhalf Aaron Cruden, who was dropped from the squad for the last two matches of the Rugby Championship after missing the team's flight to Argentina the morning after a boozy night out.
Beauden Barrett started at flyhalf in Cruden's absence for the win over Argentina that sealed a hat-trick of Rugby Championship trophies, and the loss to South Africa.