Centre Richard Kahui has given himself an outside chance of being available when the Chiefs start the defence of their Super Rugby title.
He says a more realistic target for his return from a lengthy spell on the sidelines is the Chiefs' second match of the season, at home to the Cheetahs on March 2.
But the 27-year-old, who had a further operation on his left shoulder last week, hasn't entirely ruled out the trip to Dunedin to face the Highlanders on February 22.
"I'm hoping to be available for round one, but round two will be more likely at this stage," he told NZ Newswire on Tuesday.
"What it will depend on is how much contact work I can get in and then obviously I've got to earn my spot in the team."
Kahui has been plagued by shoulder problems during in his career and had been restricted to 17 All Blacks Tests.
His latest mishap occurred in May and he underwent surgery in June.
Last Friday, he had what he described as "a little clean-out operation" to remove scar tissue and loosen up the joint.
He said he felt good physically and refreshed mentally, and was itching to get back on the field.
"I feel like I managed my time really well and it's put me in a place where I'm ready to go and hopefully ready to fire."
His latest injury meant he missed the business end of the Chiefs' fairy tale run to their first Super Rugby crown.
"While it was great watching the Chiefs win and it was a proud day for the franchise, I suppose selfishly there's a bit of disappointment you're not out there, and that's normal," he said.
"Hopefully we can go all the way again this year and I can be out there contributing."
With only Australian teams involved when Super Rugby kicks off this weekend, the Chiefs have a final pre-season hit-out against the Hurricanes at Mangatainoka on Saturday.
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