Chiefs join the market for enigmatic Ma'a Nonu

MARC HINTON
Last updated 05:03 13/10/2013
Ma'a Nonu
BEN CURRAN/Fairfax NZ
SUDDENLY IN DEMAND: After being on the verge of leaving New Zealand rugby, the Blues and Chiefs are now chasing Ma'a Nonu.

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Enigmatic All Black Ma'a Nonu now has two Super Rugby franchises lining up for his services in a dramatic change in circumstances likely to see the veteran midfielder remain in New Zealand.

The Blues on Friday confirmed they were "looking at him" for next year's Super Rugby campaign, while Chiefs coach Dave Rennie yesterday told the Star-Times there were also keen to have discussions with the 84-test All Black with a view to potentially offering him a home.

Suddenly in the space of a Sonny Bill Williams back-flip, the 31-year-old All Black second five-eighths has gone from being a supposed outcast, to having options as far his Super Rugby future goes.

It had been feared Nonu would be forced to head offshore if he could not find a Super Rugby deal for next year, despite remaining a key ingredient in Steve Hansen's all-conquering All Blacks and motivated to continue through until the 2015 World Cup.

He appeared for the Highlanders last season, the Blues in 2012 and played his final year with his home-town Hurricanes in 2011 before falling out with coach Mark Hammett. He has developed a reputation at Super Rugby level as an under-performer who has been an unsettling influence in his franchises.

Rennie admitted Williams' surprise decision to stay on in rugby league with the Sydney Roosters had put a spanner in the works of their plans, and with a midfield spot now opened up they were keen to talk to Nonu. Williams has indicated he will be back in 2015.

"We had a bit of a contingency plan anyway," said Rennie. "There's been talk about Ma'a being linked to the Blues, but we would certainly be interested to sit down and talk with Ma'a.

"That may or may not happen based on where he's at currently. We'll know a bit more in coming days."

It's understood the Chiefs start some way behind the Blues, with talks between the Auckland franchise and Nonu said to be a fair way down the track.

But in some ways the Chiefs might be a better fit, with the Blues already having rising young star Francis Saili covering second five.

The Chiefs would also offer a fresh start for Nonu, who left the Blues under a cloud when he was said to have reneged on a handshake deal to stay on with new coach Sir John Kirwan.

Meanwhile, Rennie confirmed the Chiefs had been approached around whether they had any interest in Parramatta Eels NRL star Jarryd Hayne, but it had gone no further.

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The NZRU will today in Christchurch announce new deals for key All Blacks Kieran Read and Sam Whitelock that will take them past the next World Cup.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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