Highlanders court All Black midfielder Nonu

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 17/09/2012
Ma'a Nonu
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
HIGHLANDER? Ma'a Nonu is tackled against the Springboks.

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Ma'a Nonu was a star for the All Blacks against the Springboks at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday night but what are the chances we could see more of him under the Dunedin roof next year?

Nonu has been linked with the Highlanders but remained coy when quizzed after beating the Boks on Saturday. "I can't say," Nonu said, before directing queries to his manager.

It's no secret the Highlanders would love to have the All Black midfielder.

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph has approached him but there had been no recent talks and there are still six weeks before the teams are officially announced on October 30.

Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark confirmed the signing of Tony Woodcock did not put any salary pressure on the franchise's ability to sign Nonu, if he was willing to come to Dunedin.

Nonu's standing puts him in the top earning bracket for a Super Rugby player of $180,000.

Each New Zealand franchise has about $3.5 million to spend across its 30-man squad.

While the Highlanders, who made a yet-to-be announced profit from the 2012 season, would be able to compete financially for Nonu against the other New Zealand teams, a range of factors go into a player deciding where they want to play, including who their future team-mates will be, their chances of starting and what they have been told about the team environment.

The Highlanders are still trying to retain Adam Thomson, who has been linked with moves overseas and to the Blues, but even if they do keep him they would have enough cash for Nonu.

Clark confirmed the Highlanders were also still chasing Ben Franks. Southland's Jamie Mackintosh was contracted for one more season and could only get out of his commitment by mutual agreement but Clark said the Highlanders were putting together an offer to extend his contract to include the 2014 season.

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- The Southland Times

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