Jean 'invites' Ma'a to join Stormers
All Blacks centre Ma'a Nonu may be on the wishlist of French club Clermont Auvergne, but he also has an open 'invitation' to join the Stormers.
All Blacks centre Ma'a Nonu may be on the wishlist of French club Clermont Auvergne, but he also has an open 'invitation' to join the Stormers in Cape Town.
Nonu appears unwanted by any of the five New Zealand Super Rugby franchises, with a return to the Hurricanes about the only remaining option.
On Friday Springbok and Stormers captain Jean de Villiers said they'd definitely have him in their part of the world.
"You've got a world-class player like that, you want to have him in your team," De Villiers said at his regular Friday media briefing - ahead of the Rugby Championship Test between New Zealand and South Africa in Auckland on Saturday.
"So, like I said, we can do with a couple of backline players at the Stormers, and Cape Town's not a bad place."
This followed a French newspaper report that Nonu is on the verge of joining Clermont Auvergne.
Toulon were another side interested in Nonu, but their owner Mourad Boudjellal has ruled his team out of the running.
"We looked at the option, of course, but the player had very high contract expectations and did not fit our needs perfectly," Boudjellal told Var Matin.
"With Bastareaud, Maxime Mermoz and Matt Giteau, the position is full, especially as Rudi Wulf, Bryan Habana and Drew Mitchell can also play centre."
The French newspaper claimed Boudjellal added Nonu would sign for Clermont with reports suggesting "high contract expectations" were in the region of €650,000 a year.
Clermont has a strong New Zealand connection, with former Bay of Plenty coach Vern Cotter at the helm and ex-All Blacks Sitiveni Sivivatu, Benson Stanley and Regan King on their books.
De Villiers admitted he would love to play alongside a player he regards as a "friend" off the field.
"[It is] always a massive game when I play against him," De Villiers told a media scrum, when asked about Nonu.
"He is someone that I really respect, by the way that he plays every time he puts on the [All Black] jersey.
"He is a good guy off the field as well.
"When you play against each other, against someone for so long, you build that respect on the field and a friendship off the field as well.
"We enjoy the odd chat after and prior to games. I enjoy that as well, because for me rugby is a platform to make friends as well. It may sound silly in the professional era, but rugby is still a game where you could kill each other on the field and still be friends off the field.
"He is one of those guys that plays it hard, but can still have the odd chat afterwards. [He is] a great player who has been written off so many times, but he just comes back stronger every single time."