The season isn’t over for the All Blacks, not by a long shot. After securing a drawn series against the British and Irish Lions, they have to prepare for their 2017 Rugby Championship title defence which begins on August 19.
In the meantime, the players will be battling it out for their Super Rugby sides as the quarter finals get underway this weekend. Four New Zealand sides are involved – the Crusaders, the Hurricanes, the Chiefs and the Highlanders.
Sonny Bill Williams won’t be involved but that’s not only due to the ban he received for the red card high tackle on Anthony Watson in the second Lions Test, the Auckland Blues failed to qualify for the playoffs, even though they finished with higher points than the Brumbies (but that’s the Super Rugby format for you).
Williams received a four game ban for that hit on Watson and many believed that it would rule him out for the eagerly anticipated Bledisloe Cup clash with the Wallabies in Sydney on August 19. Williams has already served two matches of his ban – the third Test against the Lions and the Blues’ trouncing at the hands of the Sunwolves in Tokyo.
With no more fixtures for the Blues, one would expect Williams to miss out against Australia but the former rugby league player is also registered to ITM Cup side Counties Manukau who will have a preseason game. There is also a club game which Williams will miss and that could count towards the suspension also.
It remains uncertain whether the club game will be considered sufficient but if not, then Williams will miss the All Blacks’ warm-up fixture dubbed ‘The Game Of Three Halves’ which also involves Counties Manukau and Taranaki.
So regardless, Williams will be available for the August 19 clash against the Wallabies. As if Michael Cheika didn’t have enough things to be worrying about.