Newly re-signed Western Force marquee international, scrum-half Alby Mathewson, could make an early comeback from injury against the Crusaders next Friday.
The former All Black, who signed a two-season extension yesterday, has been sidelined for six weeks after damaging his right ankle in last month's win over the Waratahs.
Mathewson came close to season-ending surgery after tearing all but one of the ligaments.
"It was quite a serious injury, but that one ligament probably saved me from surgery," he said.
"Travelling away cuts down time, but if I go well there's no reason why I couldn't be available for the Crusaders."
His return could hinge on tonight's result against the Lions at nib Stadium.
The Force have seven wins with five games left and it is generally accepted that 10 victories are required for a finals appearance.
If the Force win tonight, the pressure to beat the Crusaders eases as they have two more home games, against the Blues and Reds, after next month's break for the Wallabies Test series.
Their last game is against the Brumbies in Canberra.
Mathewson has been at the Force for two seasons and under Australian Rugby Union's marquee signing rules would normally have been forced to leave this year.
But the club received dispensation after successfully arguing a precedent had been set when Wales No.8 Gareth Delve was given a contract extension at the Melbourne Rebels.
Mathewson turned down an offer to play in Wales. Interest also came from Japan.
His signing is a huge boost for the Force, who did not receive ARU financial assistance towards his contract.
"I was always holding out hope that it would work out this way," Mathewson said. "Even if we had lost every game I still wanted to stay here. Results wouldn't have really mattered.
"I love everything about this club. What we are building here is pretty special. To be able to stay for two years and help keep building that is pretty important to me.
"I'm playing some of my best, if not the best, rugby. This has been the most enjoyable time I have had in my career."
Force coach Michael Foley said Mathewson's signing was a great boost to the club.
"He's at the heart of what we do. Alby is somebody that we value a lot," Foley said.
Foley is expecting a physical, set-piece dominated affair against the Lions and has brought Wilhelm Steenkamp into the starting side.
"The scrum will be a massive thing. The rolling maul is something that they try to win penalties off and take points or kick downfield and have another maul," Foley said.
"We have to nail those sorts of things and make sure we don't give them any easy yards.
"We feel that Wilhelm is probably suited to this game.
"They are coming here to get a victory."