Cantebrury Crusaders centre Robbie Fruean is to undergo heart surgery to repair damage to a valve that occurred when he contracted rheumatic fever four years ago and been ruled out of the remainder of the Super Rugby season.
The 24-year-old Fruean had open heart surgery in 2009 when he was first diagnosed with the illness, but his heart function had deteriorated over the last six months.
“Robbie has been closely monitored over the past few months and in conjunction with his specialist team, the decision was made to withdraw him from the remainder of the season and to have surgery,” Crusaders doctor Deb Robinson said.
The bullocking centre has been on the fringe of All Blacks selection over the last two or three seasons but never made the final step despite impressive form at the Super Rugby and provincial level.
Fruean was expected to spend about five days in hospital after surgery and begin gentle exercise about six weeks later.
The Crusaders are in fifth place on 51 points, five clear of the sixth-placed South African side Cheetahs and three behind Australia’s Queensland Reds with a game in hand.