Tasman front rowers Quentin MacDonald and Tim Perry are reportedly on the verge of heading to the Blues Super Rugby franchise.
Blues coach John Kirwan would not confirm former Crusaders hooker MacDonald's signing yesterday, which would be seen as a counterbalance for Kirwan having lost prop Pauliasi Manu to the Melbourne Rebels.
Kirwan's tough start to the wheeling and dealing of Super Rugby trading has continued, with the Blues coach admitting that he gambled in delisting Manu, only for the Rebels to swoop.
Kirwan is also understood to have signed Tasman's 24-year-old loosehead prop Perry, who has yet to make his Super Rugby debut, as a replacement for Manu.
Kirwan, who is in his first year in charge of the Blues, said yesterday he wanted to keep loosehead Manu, but did not name him as one of his "protected" 28 players because he was fearful that other New Zealand franchises would target fellow Auckland prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi, a 20-year-old with a big future. The importance of Tu'ungafasi, who weighs 129kg and stands 1.95m, was magnified by the surprise departure to the Highlanders of All Black Tony Woodcock.
Kirwan felt he was forced to protect Tu'ungafasi and delist Manu, with the intention of naming him as his 29th player. Under New Zealand Rugby Union rules, franchises can protect their top 28 players and select those ranked 29th to 32nd in the draft.
"We looked at all the other [New Zealand] franchises and they were full of props, and we actually wanted Pauliasi to stay, and then we got blindsided by the Australians, really. That was just the Australians coming in and picking off our players, which is a little bit unfortunate," Kirwan said. "We thought that Ofa Tu'ungafasi might have been at more risk . . . We're a bit disappointed about that."
Kirwan said Manu understood his decision and was happy with it, but added: "Obviously what happened was that was known by his manager and the Australians."