Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett isn't ruling out going to the overseas market to bolster his squad next year, but believes richer pickings could be closer to home.
With 19 players already signed up and several more in the pipeline the Hurricanes could be searching for as few as half a dozen players to bolster the team roster.
That has already involved monitoring the list of players coming off-contract at other franchises, but Hammett said it would be foolish to ignore the importance of the upcoming ITM Cup.
"What we need to remember is you look at Reggie [Goodes], Jeff [Toomaga-Allen], Brad [Shields], Julian [Savea], Beauden [Barrett] and T J [Perenara]: they all had their first full year of ITM Cup last year," he said.
"So what is ITM going to throw out this year? I think that's exciting because it will throw more players out there and I'm looking forward to seeing who that next group is.
"We want to continue to grow an environment where if they do move in here [at the Hurricanes] it's another step up and they can continue to succeed."
Hammett wouldn't go into specific detail, but most pundits expect him to target a senior prop and more depth and experience in the halves.
However, he did say he believed the franchise was in a much stronger position than a year ago to attract top quality players.
"I've got no doubt about that. It's like in sales, the best sales are your own people spreading the word.
"I know we've got several young and older players saying, ‘Hey, it's hard work, but it's fun at the same time because everyone's committed, everyone's equal'. A good culture isn't an easy one, but it has a great mixture between fun and hard work.
"One thing which is very positive is we do have several players already contracted. I think that's a positive sign of what's happened this year and an environment that people want to be involved in it.
"We are down the road quite a bit with several other players. We always need to look at that [overseas] and we will. But if you are going to bring someone in from abroad it's to perform at the top level.
"Like all coaches I'll say where we are now isn't good enough and if you stay exactly where you are you will go backwards, so that's our challenge."
The Hurricanes brought back two players from Japan this season in Samoan test first five-eighth Tusi Pisi and former Crusaders second five-eighth Tim Bateman.
Teams can contract up to 28 players and a further one to four via the Super Rugby draft. Each franchise also contracts a wider training group of about half a dozen players.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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