David Pocock says end-of-sabbatical knee surgery was the "smart decision" to avoid long-term damage despite the degenerative injury delaying his ACT Brumbies comeback.
Pocock will arrive back in Canberra on Monday after ending a 12-month sabbatical from Australian rugby duties.
However, his highly-anticipated return has already been put on ice after having a clean-up operation on his meniscus, which is set to see him miss up to 12 weeks.
The good news is Pocock could be back as early as the Brumbies' first home game of the season on March 17, but will wait to meet with medical staff before plotting a path back to Super Rugby.
"There is always frustration and disappointment, but all you can do is control your reaction to it. Having a bit of time off [last year], I realise how fortunate I am," Pocock said.
"I was looking forward to arriving back in Canberra with some match fitness and ready to go, but this is probably the better approach. I've managed it for ages, this is the smart decision.
"It's the kind of thing that if you keep managing, at some point if it tears it will be a lot worse. You wouldn't want that to be halfway through the season."
Pocock's break was designed to refresh his mind and body for the road to the World Cup in Japan next year, and the 65 Test veteran stepped away from all rugby action for six months last year.
He worked on farms and conservation projects in Africa, came face to face with wild elephants and lions at the Mana Pools National Park, studied at Harvard in the United States and visited Canada.
What an incredible few days with Nick Murray and his team at @bushlifesafaris in Mana Pools National Park. We went up there to help with collaring iconic elephant but the collaring didn't go ahead so Nick showed us around Mana. Getting up close to elephant and lion on foot was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. We also did some canoeing on the mighty Zambezi. Nick and his team put a huge amount of time and money into supporting anti-poaching efforts in and around the park which has really reduced poaching. I can't recommend a visit to Vundu and Mana Pools enough. #zimbabwe @canonaustralia
The challenge of something new and different tested Pocock in ways rugby never could.
But he showed no signs of rugby rust when he returned in Japan at the end of last year, before Brumbies staff decided it was better to fix his knee now rather than hoping it could be managed through the year.
The mental break of being away from the Australian spotlight has helped reinvigorate Pocock, despite his physical setback.
He helped lift the Wild Knights into the Top League final against Suntory two weeks ago, but the Brumbies will have to wait to have their marquee man back on the field.
"I guess there was no fairytale [after the Wild Knights lost the final to Suntory] and now I've had surgery on my knee," Pocock said.
"The time off did give me perspective. I went back to my primary school in Gweru [in Zimbabwe] and to see the looks on their faces ... it gives you a real sense of how sport can bring joy to people's lives.
"It makes you grateful for the opportunities you've had and all of the people who have sacrificed so much along the way to allow you to do what you do.
"I've been able to do it for 12 years now, so I'm feeling incredibly lucky to have had those opportunities so far."
The return of Pocock, although carrying an injury, and Christian Lealiifano on Monday will bolster the squad as they ramp up pre-season training this week.
Lealiifano is back after a stellar stint for Irish club Ulster, rediscovering his best playmaking form after missing most of last year because of his battle against leukaemia.
Pocock admits he had some trepidation about stepping away from professional rugby for so long and wondered how it would affect his ability to play towards his goal at the 2019 World Cup.
"It's been an incredible life experience [taking the sabbatical] and there were a whole bunch of highlights, and certainly some lowlights as well," Pocock said.
"I've learnt a lot and now I feel excited about getting back into things again in Canberra with the Brumbies."
BRUMBIES 2018 DRAW (home games in bold)
Round 1: Bye
Round 2: Japan Sunwolves v Brumbies in Tokyo, 3.15pm on February 24.
Round 3: Queensland Reds v Brumbies at Suncorp Stadium, 8pm on March 2
Round 4: Melbourne Rebels v Brumbies at AAMI Park, 7.45pm on March 9
Round 5: Brumbies v Durban Sharks at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm on March 17
Round 6: Bye
Round 7: Brumbies v NSW Waratahs at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm on March 31
Round 8: Brumbies v Queensland Reds at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm on April 7
Round 9: Otago Highlanders v Brumbies in New Zealand, 5.35pm on April 14
Round 10: Brumbies v Argentina Jaguares at Canberra Stadium, 4.05pm on April 22
Round 11: Brumbies v Canterbury Crusaders at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm on April 28
Round 12: Bye
Round 13: Brumbies v Melbourne Rebels at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm on May 12
Round 14: Johannesburg Lions v Brumbies at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, 1.15am on May 20
Round 15: Pretoria Bulls v Brumbies at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, 11.05pm on May 26
Round 16: Brumbies v Japan Sunwolves at Canberra Stadium, 4.05pm on June 3
Round 17: Brumbies v Wellington Hurricanes at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm on June 30
Round 18: Waikato Chiefs v Brumbies in New Zealand, 3.15pm on July 7
Round 19: NSW Waratahs v Brumbies at Allianz Stadium, 7.45pm on July 14