Cape Town - The All Blacks will be without the services of Sam Whitelock, Liam Squire, Sonny Bill Williams and Joe Moody when they face Italy in Rome on Saturday.
The quartet have been declared unavailable for the world champions' last Test of their end-of-year tour and will return to New Zealand.
Squire left the field with a knee injury in the defeat to Ireland on Saturday and although his injury is not deemed serious, he would not have been fit to play against the Azzurri.
Whitelock has been instructed to take a three-month break to recover from minor injuries after experiencing a long and draining season which started with him captaining the Crusaders to a second successive Super Rugby title.
He also captained the All Blacks during their three-Test series win over France in June and went on to make 11 Test appearances this season. Whitelock's break means he will miss the first four rounds of the Crusaders' 2019 Super Rugby campaign.
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen believes Whitelock's rest period will do him good in the long run.
"I know someone like Sam Whitelock, he is going to have a really good break and we will see a different player because of that," he told Stuff.
Hansen was initially optimistic that Williams would recover in time for the Test against Italy after he sustained a shoulder injury in the All Blacks' narrow win over England at Twickenham, but the player was ruled unfit and his injury-plagued season is now over.
Moody, like Williams, also missed the Test against Ireland after suffering an eyelid injury in the build-up to the England Test and will also return home.
Meanwhile, Matt Todd will return to the Panasonic Wild Knights club in Japan after joining the tour as back-up to Ardie Savea when Sam Cane was ruled out through injury at the end of the Rugby Championship.