Wellington - New Zealand's Rugby World Cup-winning captain Richie McCaw has begun running again following foot surgery but does not expect to be available for the Crusaders' Super Rugby campaign until at least April.
McCaw battled through immense pain in his right foot during last year's World Cup as a screw inserted to fix a fracture before last year's Super Rugby competition only served to aggravate him.
The 31-year-old openside flank had surgery after the World Cup to remove the screw and told reporters in Auckland on Tuesday that he doubted he would play again before April.
"The foot is really good. I've just started back running," the All Blacks captain told reporters at the New Zealand launch of the Super Rugby competition.
"I'll progress over the next few weeks to hopefully get back out on the field soon, but hopefully it's all behind me.
"By March, I should be pretty close to knowing when I'll be back, but I'd say some time in April.
"But I don't want to put too tight a time frame on it."
The Crusaders head to South Africa for two matches against the Lions in Johannesburg on March 31 and Bulls in Pretoria on April 7, before they host the Stormers on April 14.
The Crusaders will also be without the services of star flyhalf Dan Carter during the opening Super Rugby rounds after he suffered a groin injury during the World Cup.