Richie McCaw's admission that he is "progressing slowly" means he is unlikely to play for the Crusaders in the Super Rugby match against the Stormers at Rugby League Park in Christchurch on Saturday.
Hopes were high that the All Blacks superstar was closing in on a return to competitive rugby having not played since helping his country win the Webb Ellis trophy on home soil at the end of last year because of an ongoing foot injury.
Six months of rehabilitation have passed but the 103 Test veteran is still not able train with his Crusaders team-mates and is short of match sharpness.
"I've been progressing slowly," he told the Sunday Star-Times.
The 31-year-old said he would not be putting himself under pressure to name his comeback date because he was still not up to the required fitness levels, although reports have suggested he might have to wait another month before making his long-awaited return.
He added: "People ask when I'm going to be back and I'm reluctant to put time on it because I'm still not really 100 per cent sure.
"It's just a matter of progressing as you need to.
"From straight running to changing directions, I'm just doing that so hopefully before too long before I'll be back with boots on and training, getting match fit."
McCaw would not be drawn on suggestions he could move to Italy later this season to take up an option of playing abroad under his contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union, which runs until 2015.
The Otago native said his priority was to get games under his belt but refused to rule out a future move.
"There's no doubt, it's nice to have that option," he added.
"If you're going to get through to the next world cup, then that's something that, if it means carrying on playing at the level I need to be at, could be quite important."
Those wanting to bet on rugby league would do well to keep track of these developments.