The ACT Brumbies are hopeful Tevita Kuridrani will commit to a new deal next week as the “K-Train” prepares to prove his worth on a Bledisloe Cup redemption mission.
Kuridrani is believed to be on the verge of finalising a contract to re-sign with the Brumbies and the Wallabies, despite becoming Australian rugby’s forgotten outside centre.
The Wallabies will throw Kuridrani back into the starting team for the clash against New Zealand in Dunedin on Saturday night after Samu Kerevi’s defensive flaws were exposed last weekend.
But Kuridrani is in the unusual position of not having a contract beyond the end of the year and the Brumbies are sweating on one of their marquee men committing his future to Canberra.
Kuridrani admitted it was “strange” having his career up in the air as his management continued negotiations with the ARU.
The powerful 26-year-old has been a Wallabies mainstay since making his debut in 2013, but Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has a preference for starting Kerevi at outside centre.
It has relegated Kuridrani to the bench in six of the past 13 Tests, only getting his starting opportunities when Kerevi has been injured.
But the Brumbies view the Fijian-born centre as a key cog to their hopes of chase a Super Rugby title in the coming years and are keen to end the contract limbo.
“Tevita is critically important for us. I think we saw in the second half of the Bledisloe Cup last weekend we saw how important he was not just for the Brumbies, but the Wallabies as well,” said ACT coach Dan McKellar.
“You see the big ball carries and how dominant he is in attack. But for me, something that goes unnoticed by a lot of people is his workrate in defence.
“He is honestly one of the best defensive centres in the game and we saw that last week. He’s an experienced player, he doesn’t say a lot but when he does talk, people listen.
“We’re hopeful of having him locked in as soon as possible because we know he’s a big part of our future.”
The Wallabies have called on Kuridrani to add starch to Australia’s brittle defence after a 54-34 debacle against New Zealand in Sydney last weekend.
Kuridrani’s Brumbies teammate Rory Arnold has also been recalled to the starting XV to replace Adam Coleman, who has been ruled out of the second Bledisloe because of a shoulder injury.
Cheika conceded the Wallabies rushed Kerevi back into action after battling an ankle injury for the past three months.
But Kuridrani has rarely put a foot wrong in Wallabies gold and has played almost every minute of every game for the Brumbies since 2013.
The Brumbies have almost finalised their roster for McKellar’s first season as a head coach, but the club is waiting for the Western Force to finalise a legal battle with the ARU before filling the final two contracts.
The Force is fighting the ARU’s decision to axe the Perth franchise from Super Rugby.
If it fails in its NSW Supreme Court bid, the clubs stars will be searching for new homes and the Brumbies have space to sign two backs.
“We’re taking our time, I don’t think there’s any rush [in recruiting the last two players],” McKellar said.
“There’s still no clarity around the Western Force and that situation there. We’ve got the [National Rugby Championship] coming up and the [New Zealand provincial competition].
“We just want to be really thorough and diligent in making sure we get the right people for the couple of positions that are still available.”