The All Blacks have downplayed speculation Ma'a Nonu's departure is imminent after he was pulled in the second-half against the Springboks.
Nonu is expected to decide this week whether he will again link with wealthy Japanese club Ricoh or recommit to the black jersey and the Blues.
The 30-year-old was replaced by Highlanders utility Tamati Ellison 20-minutes into second-half of Sunday's victory in Soweto, hinting he had indicated at a move off-shore and the All Blacks were looking to the future.
But assistant coach Ian Foster quashed those assumptions in the washup to his team's clean sweep of the Rugby Championship.
"They're definitely reading too much into that. He had tired legs. It's as simple as that," Foster said.
"I'm not sure dragging is the right word. Ma'a had probably his best game of the season in Argentina.
"I thought he was a little bit flat in that first-half, but he gave us a really big 20 minutes in the second half and really got us go-forward.
"We felt it was about attitude, energy and commitment in the physical areas and Tamati is outstanding at that. He made quite and impact.
"Foster was "hopeful" the world-class second five-eighth would stay and add to his 72 tests, but remained no clearer on which way Nonu was leaning.
Nonu's possible departure would leave the All Blacks somewhat exposed, after Sonny Bill Williams also left for Japan and a return to the NRL.
Ellison and injured Chiefs midfielder Richard Kahui are obvious candidates to succeed the power-packed No 12, but other options represent a significant step down in class.
Experienced hooker Keven Mealamu had spoken to Nonu about the prestigious place the All Blacks held in New Zealand sport and the prospect of creating a legacy.
But the Blues captain also made it clear Nonu's decision wasn't straightforward.
"We're going to keep chirping in his ear and hopefully get him to stay but at the end of the day it will be his decision," Mealamu said.
"There's always other factors that come into it.
"We'd love him to stay on. He's a good mate of ours. The longer he can stay around the better for this team."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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