Patrick McKendry 's Opinion

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Patrick McKendry: Presence of SBW good for title chase

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If it all goes to plan, New Zealand rugby, and in particular the Chiefs, will be the big winners, says McKendry. Photo / Alan Gibson
If it all goes to plan, New Zealand rugby, and in particular the Chiefs, will be the big winners, says McKendry. Photo / Alan Gibson

If Sonny Bill Williams returns to the Chiefs next year, as is now expected, then Dave Rennie's side just took a big stride towards title No3.

It will also increase the pressure on Ma'a Nonu, the All Blacks second-five with no Super Rugby home to go to.

As revealed in yesterday's Herald on Sunday, the Chiefs have become Williams' favoured destination next season, and just as significantly, he could be there for the next three years, a big departure from his recent policy of agreeing only one-year deals.

Williams, currently in the NRL with the Sydney Roosters, is understood to want to give himself two seasons back in rugby before the 2015 World Cup, with the unique opportunity of a trip to the Rio Olympics as part of the New Zealand Sevens team also in mind for the year after.

If it all goes to plan, New Zealand rugby, and in particular the Chiefs, will be the big winners.

It will counter-balance the departures of Richard Kahui, Craig Clarke, Lelia Masaga, Brendon Leonard and Toby Smith. They will find another lock to partner Brodie Retallick, they will find another wing, they are well off for halfbacks with Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Augustine Pulu in their ranks, and they have plenty of props - Jamie Mackintosh will bolster a front row already consisting of Ben Afeaki, Ben Tameifuna and Pauliasi Manu.

Their midfield this season was a constantly revolving door involving Kahui, Bundee Aki, Tim Nanai-Williams, Charlie Ngatai, Andrew Horrell and Save Tokula. To operate at the level they did despite the regular injuries and tinkering was a testament to the players and the coaches. The arrival of Williams will slam the door shut on the No12 jersey; the quality he provides on attack and defence giving the Chiefs an automatic boost every time he pulls it on.

Williams' manager Khoder Nasser laughed yesterday when asked for comment about the player's intentions, saying: "You ain't getting any comment from any of us."

The Chiefs and the All Blacks should be laughing too. Maybe not Nonu, though, especially if he is forced to take a holiday while SBW is doing his thing.

- APNZ

Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby writer Patrick McKendry began his journalism career 20 years ago and has worked in newspapers in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. He worked in a communications role on his return here before joining APN before the 2011 World Cup.

Read more by Patrick McKendry

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