Crusaders chase unsettled Ma'a Nonu

MARC HINTON
Last updated 05:00 20/05/2012
Ma'a Nonu
MAARTEN HOLL/Fairfax NZ
NEW HOME? Ma'a Nonu is thought to be considering a move to the Crusaders for next season.

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The Crusaders are making a strong bid to lure All Blacks midfield back Ma'a Nonu to his third Super Rugby home in as many seasons.

Sources indicate that the seven-time champion franchise are keen to add Nonu to boost their midfield stocks for the 2013 season, with the Rugby World Cup winner said to be strongly tempted to make the move.

Nonu is currently playing with the Blues, after making an acrimonious departure from the Hurricanes at the end of the 2011 campaign.

But with the Blues' season lurching from bad to worse, it's understood Nonu has been less than settled in Auckland, and may be tempted by the opportunity to play with the quality Crusaders outfit.

The 66-test midfielder, who turns 30 tomorrow, has failed to find his best form with the Blues, but still remains an automatic selection at the highest level.

The Crusaders have lacked game-breaking quality in the No 12 jersey and it's understood they have put a priority on finding some for next season.

Nonu's All Blacks rival Sonny Bill Williams had an outstanding 2011 Super Rugby season at second-five with the Crusaders, but moved to the Chiefs this season, where he has continued to excel.

Nonu refused to answer Sunday Star-Times' questions about his plans for next season, and Crusaders boss Hamish Riach said the organisation never commented on players being recruited until contracts were signed.

But Riach did confirm the Crusaders were already looking at contracting players for next season, even though the current campaign would not end until August.

"You're always planning, thinking ahead and always talking to people," Riach told the Star-Times.

"The contracting window is very long, and those conversations are always going on at appropriate times within the campaign.

"We're continuing to work away, and we're happy where we're at."

Riach also confirmed that the hastily built Addington Stadium had been a salvation for the franchise, who lost their home venue in the February 2011 earthquake.

"It's everything to us. The travels of last year were quite unique and the guys did extraordinarily well. But if they had to repeat that they couldn't have kept performing at any sort of level."

But he also revealed the financial limitations that the 17,500-capacity venue placed on the Crusaders.

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"We need to sell out each game to approximately break even. It's a model that does see us survive if we can attract around 17,000 each week which we've managed.

"But in terms of kicking on in any really big way we simply need a bigger stadium."

The Christchurch council closes submissions on its draft annual plan tomorrow, and that includes a proposed new stadium.

"We will be submitting in favour of a rectangular roofed stadium with a capacity around 35,000," said Riach. "Hopefully in somewhere between three to seven years we should be moving into the best stadium in the country."

Riach also confirmed both Canterbury and Crusaders rugby were still discussing business interruption claims with insurance companies.

"We hope once those are resolved, if we can keep our nose above water with the new stadium, we will get through this most trying of periods in reasonable shape."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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