It seems that the final chapter in the Sonny Bill Williams transfer sage is about to be written as the Kiwi is set to announce which Super Rugby club he will be plying his trade with next season, with all reports indicating a return home to Auckland is most likely.
Williams will hold a press conference in Auckland tomorrow in which he will outline the details of his new three-year All Blacks contract which will see him remain with New Zealand through to the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
SBW’s agent Koder Nassar has remained relatively quiet on the matter, keeping his cards close to his chest, but it is believed that Williams is to shun a return to the Chiefs in favour of the Auckland Blues due to the lure of family ties, his close relationship with Blues head coach Tana Umaga; who has been in full recruiter mode in his efforts to land the star’s signature, as well as the challenge of turning the Auckland side’s fortunes around.
It is believed that with the birth of his son that Williams is keen on remaining close to his mother who resides in Auckland as well do wider family members.
Williams’ relationship with All Blacks legend Umaga is seen as a key determinant in his decision if he does choose the Blues. Umaga was the centres coach when he launched his rugby union career in France with Toulon after sensationally quitting NRL side the Bulldogs before being briefly reunited at Counties Manukau.
The Blues inability in landing star quality players has come into question as of late, however the two-time World Cup winners arrival would certainly aid in quashing this perception. The Chiefs are backing their culture and reputation as tools of persuasion in order to entice SBW back to Waikato where Williams helped to claim their maiden Super Rugby title in 2012.
However, the overriding reason Williams is thought to be keen on a Blues move is that the need for him there is greater, as the Chiefs, with new All Blacks Charlie Ngatai and Seta Tamanivalu, are well served in the midfield while the Blues on the other hand have had issues in this area of the field with George Moala, Rene Ranger, Piers Francis and Male Sa’u all being utitlised with limited success.
Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has met several times with Williams and Nassar and Chiefs chief executive Andrew Flexman feels that his franchise done all they are capable of in bringing the sevens star back to his former club: (source via stuff.co.nz)
“We’ve put absolutely our best foot forward and done everything we can to hopefully make the Chiefs compelling for Sonny. And now it’s largely beyond our control, to a degree.”
When asked if the likelihood was a 50/50 split of Williams going to either said Flexman felt that “that’s probably a reasonably fair assessment of it” given the personal interests that Auckland hold for Sonny Bill despite having already won a Super Rugby title with the Chiefs.
“I have no doubt, knowing the man, that he’ll feel a degree of loyalty,” Flexman said. “But loyalty only goes so far. It’s obviously what he feels is the best situation for him and his family. That whole situation’s changed a little bit too, with him being a father to a young child now, and the responsibilities that go with that, so I have no doubt that having family presence in Auckland is a consideration for him as well.
“He may well see the Blues as a compelling challenge for him, given their relative standing in Super Rugby at the moment.
“All I can really say is we know that we’d do a great job with him in our environment, we’ve proven that in the past, and we’d back ourselves to get the best out of him.”
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Read More About: 2019 Rugby World Cup, alex flexman, All Blacks, Auckland Blues, Charlie Ngatai, Counties Manukau, dave rennie, George Moala, koder nassar, male sa'u, new zealand, Piers Francis, Rene Ranger, rugby union, rugby world cup, Sonny Bill Williams, super rugby, tana umage, Toulon, Waikato Chiefs