The future playing destination of Aaron Cruden will become clear next week after the Hurricanes first five-eighths said yesterday he was close to making a decision whether to remain in the capital or join Super 15 rivals the Chiefs.
The 22-year-old said he had also fielded a call from Blues coach Pat Lam but it was now a straight choice between the franchise where he has played the past two seasons and the team that picked up the wooden spoon in the New Zealand conference this year.
"It's been a pretty hard decision. We're just working through the process now and hopefully early next week we will make a decision," said the six-test All Black.
The attraction of the Chiefs is obvious - the side will be coached next season by his Manawatu and former New Zealand under-20s coach Dave Rennie, who will be assisted by All Blacks backs coach Wayne Smith.
The Hurricanes ended the season in turmoil with the long-serving hooker Andrew Hore and midfield back Ma'a Nonu, both of whom have over 100 caps for the side, being told they did not have a future at the franchise.
Nonu has since departed for the Blues, while Piri Weepu, Cory Jane and Hosea Gear are mulling their futures. The strength of the Hurricanes would be a factor in Cruden's decision.
"The make-up of squads do have a bit of an effect. I've been talking to Piri and Corey Jane and trying to pick their brains and get an idea of what their thinking is and that'll help me make my decision as well.
"It's a professional industry now so you've got to make the best decision for yourself and your family.
"Regardless of the actions and incidents that happened with the Hurricanes this year, I would be thinking about it," he said.
One of the 25 All Blacks contenders attending a second training camp in Wellington yesterday, Cruden was in contention to be named as understudy to Dan Carter when the All Blacks squad for the Tri-Nations was named on Sunday.
He faces competition from Colin Slade for a place in the squad.
His rival came through 40 minutes in Canterbury's successful Ranfurly Shield defence on Saturday, and is due to feature in a pre-season national provincial championship match against Wellington this week.
The sight of prop Tony Woodcock striding out around the perimeter of the field in Newtown yesterday would have brought smiles to the faces of the All Blacks coaches after the loosehead spent a large chunk of the season nursing a painful foot injury.
He was joined by Israel Dagg, limited to a jog after his thigh injury in May, while Isaia Toeava was also restricted to light duties.
Wing Hosea Gear sat out training with the ankle injury.
- NZPABy Sean Martin