Rugby: Highlanders end connection with Nonu; chasing No10

Ma'a Nonu.
Ma'a Nonu.
The Highlanders have cut their Ma'a Nonu connection and are in the market for an experienced first five-eighth.

Highlanders general manager Roger Clark said the franchise had moved on from Nonu and was now concentrating on next year and putting the team for 2014 together.

Nonu (31) joined the Highlanders for the 2013 season but it had been an unhappy alliance as the player was hampered by a knee injury and failed to make an impact on the field.

His season ended prematurely when he was sent off for a tip tackle in the match against the Crusaders on June 29 and was suspended for three weeks.

Clark said the Highlanders have had no dealings with Nonu or his agent in recent times.

The franchise put a deal to Nonu in April and had no response, so had moved on.

The Highlanders have signed Jason Emery, Phil Burleigh and Shaun Treeby for next season and are also hoping to get Tamati Ellison back if he is given an exemption by the New Zealand Rugby Union.

Ellison has joined the Ricoh club in Japan but wants to come back to play for the Highlanders at the end of the Japanese season.

He is waiting for approval from the NZRU.

As for Nonu's future, it remains up in the air with a return to the Hurricanes looking the most likely option.

Clark confirmed the Highlanders were looking for an experienced first five-eighth but there was no chance of getting Beauden Barrett or Chris Noakes south.

Noakes was signed to the Blues for another year and, although Barrett is off contract, Clark doubted he would be leaving the Hurricanes.

The Highlanders had signed Lima Sopoaga and Hayden Parker for next year but both were still relatively inexperienced at this level. Colin Slade was expected to head back to the Crusaders.

Clark said they were looking for someone with a high goal-kicking percentage, with 80% or above expected at Super 15 level.

Candidates appear thin on the ground with a dearth of top-quality and experienced No 10s available.

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph may be forced to look overseas but that met with limited success last season.

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