Rugby: Highlanders eye Maitland

By Steve Hepburn of the Otago Daily Times

Sean Maitland. Photo / Getty Images
Sean Maitland. Photo / Getty Images

The Highlanders could sign Crusaders winger Sean Maitland as the moves and counter-moves continue as Super 15 rosters are finalised.

Yesterday was the day all five New Zealand franchises had to give the New Zealand Rugby Union a list of players they wished to delist.

The latest buzzword around rugby - delist - may have only come into vogue this season but it is not a new process.

It is simply players not wanted by franchises being offered to other sides. It used to be seen as players going into the draft but these players are now delisted.

Once a player is delisted he is free to go overseas or switch franchises.

Franchises are keen to get rid of these players because if they are still on a contract the franchise could be up for a hefty pay packet, which could be as much as $180,000.

Over the past week it has been revealed the likes of Blues first five-eighth Gareth Anscombe and Chiefs midfielder Jackson Willison have been delisted.

The Highlanders have remained tight-lipped on whom they have moved on but for them it is more about contract timing and two-year deals.

When coach Jamie Joseph signed up two years ago, he brought a raft of players with him.

The vast majority of them were signed on two-year deals, and that two years concluded at the end of this season.

The likes of No 8 Elliot Dixon and winger Telusa Veainu - both who had very limited game time with the franchise over two seasons - will not be delisted but will merely not be re-signed by the franchise.

Dixon may have a outside chance of getting back to the franchise as he has promise and size but Veainu looks a non-starter in a Highlanders jersey next year.

Winger Kade Poki may be a delist candidate for the Highlanders. He has a year to go on his contract but struggled for game time last season and has injury problems with his knees.

He has a contract until the end of next year but Maitland may take his place.

Maitland has also had his share of injury problems and is out of this year's ITM Cup with a finger injury. He is believed to have been delisted by the Crusaders, who have plenty of talent on the flanks.

Maitland has real speed and has been talked of as a candidate for national honours.

Highlanders pivots Lima Sopoaga and Colin Slade have been injury-plagued over the past two years and it could be a temptation to punt one of them and hook Anscombe.

Players in the Highlanders set-up this season who will not have their contracts renewed are lock Culum Rettalick, flanker Doug Tietjens, hooker Jason Rutledge, prop Bronson Murray, utility back Kendrick Lynn and outside back Kurt Baker.

One player the Highlanders have missed signing is prop Ben Franks who revealed in the weekend he has signed for the Hurricanes.

Once All Black prop Tony Woodcock linked with the Highlanders it was always going to be difficult to also get Franks.

Ma'a Nonu is still a candidate to head south but any decision will not be made until the middle of next month.

- Otago Daily Times

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