Chiefs five-eighth/fullback Gareth Anscombe has revealed that he hopes to miss the first two matches of the 2014 Super Rugby as he recovers from double shoulder surgery.
The Chiefs are running a little thin in the five-eighth position as Anscombe is sidelined while he recovers from surgery and All Black Aaron Cruden is still on his off season break.
In addition fullbacks Tom Marshall (thumb) and Robbie Robinson (hip) are injured so the Chiefs are keen to get the versatile goal-kicking Anscombe back on the playing field as soon as possible.
Anscombe has seen the debilitating effect of persistent shoulder injuries on former Chiefs Richard Kahui who now plays in Japan so he wants to make sure that he gets his rehabilitation right before returning to the playing field.
"They seem to be on the mend and getting a bit stronger," Anscombe told Fairfax NZ News of his shoulders.
"Still a lot of work to be done obviously, but going in the right direction."
The Chiefs medical team are reluctant to give him a set date that he can make his return to playing and Anscombe himself is wary of putting himself under too much pressure to return by a fixed date.
"I've got a date in mind, I suppose, when I'd like to play but it's hard because you don't want to put too much pressure on yourself and rush it and injure yourself again, but I'm sure in training over the next few weeks I'll up the ante and I can pretty much get everything I need out of training to know whether I'm ready for a game," said the fullback.
Anscombe is hoping to return in the middle of March which would see him back in the fifth round. The Chiefs only start playing in the second round and they have a bye in the fourth round so the fifth round would be the Chiefs third match and is against the Stormers at Waikato Stadium on March the 14th.
His official aim is a little further out though as he could return for the Chiefs tour of Perth and South Africa which is after the Stormers match.
Both of Anscombe's shoulders has labrum tears but his left shoulder was particularly bad and Anscombe isn't sure just how he got through last year's Super Rugby season with the injury.
"It was really only just holding on through the final and I'm pretty sure it might have popped out even during the final."
Anscombe's fellow back Bundee Aki has also had shoulder surgery and the two have similar rehab programmes but Anscombe says that having both shoulders operated on has made his progress difficult over the last five months.
The first of his two shoulder operations was on his left shoulder and happened within two weeks of the Super Rugby final on August the 3rd and the second shoulder operation was 10 weeks later.
"You can't have them done at the same time, otherwise you're left stuck with both in casts, so I had to wait till I was out of the sling and could get a bit of movement out of it so when I had my right one done I could use the left a little.
"It does make things a little bit slower but we're not rushing things, I'm doing the right things in the gym and with the physios so hopefully I'll be back there as soon as I can.
"The movement's a lot better now and I can get to the top of my range so now it's about trying to get a bit of size on and trying to get a lot stronger because I've wasted away over the last six months."
Anscombe said that his first visits back to the surgeon have been positive and he hopes to get the green light to return to training with the Chiefs at the start of next month.