Two exciting Hawke's Bay Magpies backs, Zac Guildford and Gillies Kaka, won't be playing for the province in the country's major domestic rugby competition.

Former All Black wing Zac Guildford has signed a three-year contract with French club Clermont Auvergne.

The Napier Technical Old Boys premier club player, who turns 25 early next month, will fulfil his contractual obligations with the Crusaders franchise before jetting off at the end of the Super Rugby season.

Guildford, who has played 10 tests for the All Blacks since his debut against Wales in 2009, is contracted to the NZRU until the end of this year but has an escape clause with the Hawke's Bay Rugby Football Union (HBRFU) and has chosen to exercise that.


The Magpies winger's decision doesn't come as a surprise considering he's grappled with his share of alcohol-related demons in the past few years that left his budding international career in the doldrums.

Other talented New Zealand wingers, such as Julian Savea, Ben Smith, Cory Jane and Frank Halai, have also worked their way into the the matrix of All Black selectors.

Consequently, this may well be an opportune tune time for him to start afresh, not just as a professional footballer but also as an individual.

HBRFU chief executive Mike Bishop yesterday said they were disappointed in losing a talented player but it would definitely be a fresh start for one of Bay's favourite sons for the past seven years.

"Firstly, my personal view is that it has been a pleasure to deal with a fellow who walked into my office in 2006 to sign a rugby contract with his father," Bishop said, adding they had encouraged him to go and Bay rugby wished him all the best.

Guildford's father, the late Robert Guildford, died in the stands in June 2009 while watching him play in the final of the Under-20 World Cup in Tokyo, Japan, which New Zealand won 44-28. His mother, Debbie, and brother Victor live in Napier.

20 Dec, 2013 6:06am
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Said Bishop: "He was, if my memory serves me right, still a seventh-former at Napier Boys' High School ... so he and another fellow called [Israel] Dagg, from Lindisfarne College, were an exciting part of our set up and the rest is history."

The former New Zealand Secondary Schools representative made his Magpies debut in 2007, racking up 68 caps and scoring 195 points to the end of the ITM Cup season last winter. He was also a member of the New Zealand sevens team who won gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Guildford is reportedly replacing former All Black wing Sitiveni Sivivatu, who is moving to Castres.

Bishop said Guildford had been a fantastic servant of Hawke's Bay rugby.

"Actually, it might be the last we see of him in a black-and-white jersey and he's only 24."

While he was always welcome to return to roost with the Magpies, Bishop said it was an ideal time for Guildford to get out of New Zealand for a life in France where they played competitive rugby.

"He's obviously not just going for rugby because we play the best rugby in the world here in New Zealand.

"He's going to see the world and to find a pathway to life but rugby will pay his bills."

Bishop said Guildford, who was pivotal in helping the Magpies make NPC playoffs and win the Ranfurly Shield last year, was always a player who never had any fuel left in his tank at the final whistle because he gave it his all for the collective.

"He was a complete professional and a really good guy," he said, adding Guildford had a penchant for turning up at the union offices at McLean Park, Napier, to have a cup of tea and chat with staff.

Bishop said Magpies utility back Kaka was in some ways very different from Guildford.

The 23-year-old Havelock North Rugby Club player was working his way through the four-tier rugby Sevens structure and was in the first or second level.

"Like Zac, we wish him all the best. He's a world champion player and he's brilliant," Bishop said of the member of the world champion All Black Sevens and the Ngati Kahungunu Sportsperson of the Year who will be chasing a berth for sevens debut in the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016 as well as the IRB Series world champions titles in between.

The union was in discussions with Kaka and Guildford a month or two ago.

While the Magpies were light on the wings, Bishop said it was an opportune time for Penikolo Latu, Trinity Spooner-Neera, Daniel McIntyre and Emerson Mason to step up.

"Our cupboards are never bare," he said, emphasising a solid Magpies squad was nearly complete with just one or two people left to sign contracts.

"We'll have an exciting year with the ITM Cup and it'll be huge for rugby with the Hurricanes and All Blacks also to be staged at McLean Park."