Julian Savea's decision on his playing future is imminent with the Chiefs suddenly emerging as the frontrunner to pull the All Blacks wing away from the Hurricanes.
It is understood Savea will make his decision inside the next fortnight after weighing a multitude of different factors, and not simply the money on offer.
Reports he had signed with the Crusaders are premature, though the southern franchise has tabled an attractive offer.
Savea is believed to be weighing family, finance and his playing future as he grapples with what would be a difficult decision to leave his home franchise.
The defending champion Chiefs are known to be quietly confident they are in pole position to lure the 13-test All Black to Hamilton, where he could potentially be running off Sonny Bill Williams' shoulder next season.
On a personal note, the 23-year-old has a young daughter in Wellington, while he will also be watching closely the resolution of close friend Ma'a Nonu's playing future, possibly as early as next week.
Nonu remains passionate about being given the opportunity to return to his home franchise and has expressed a desire to mentor younger players in the province.
Savea is keen to see his Oriental Rongotai clubmate return to the Hurricanes and though it will not be the decisive factor in his decision it is sure to play some part.
Both players have had their issues with Hurricanes management over contractual issues, Nonu jettisoned in 2011, and Savea unimpressed during dealings early in his career.
The dual issues of Savea and Nonu are causing considerable tension within the Hurricanes franchise and on the Wellington provincial scene.
While Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett has previously been reluctant to change his stance on Nonu after showing him the door in 2011, others believe it is time to bury the hatchet.
With flagging crowds and the need for a power player in the midfield there is a belief Nonu would aid both causes, the latter heightened by the departure of Rey Lee-Lo, who has been lured to the Crusaders.
Losing Savea in the same breath as turning away Nonu would be a tough pill to swallow for even the most devoted Hurricanes supporter and likely raise eyebrows among sponsors.
Hammett did not respond to requests for comment yesterday, but Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder confirmed that reports he had secured Savea's services were incorrect.
Hurricanes chief executive James Te Puni is maintaining his stance that he is hopeful of securing Savea's signature, but offering no further comment.
The New Zealand Rugby Union continue to stick to the line that they would like to see Nonu find a home at one of New Zealand's five Super Rugby franchises.
Warren Alcock, who manages the affairs of Nonu and Savea, is overseas and could not be reached for comment.
- The Dominion Post
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