Sonny Bill Williams and Rugby Union: End of a brief but dazzling affair?
After setting the Super Rugby tournament alight with compelling performances week in and week out, the most sought after player in Rugby Union could be quitting New Zealand or even the game. By STYLI CHARALAMBOUS
Having been signed by the Rugby League Sydney Bulldogs straight out of high school in 2002, the talented Mr Williams was enticed north by the paycheques of French Club rugby in 2008. On his return to New Zealand in 2010, Sonny William Williams became only the second dual international to represent his country at both Rugby League and Rugby union.
SBW, as the formidable centre has come to be known, was one of the outstanding players of this year’s Super Rugby tournament. Leaving defences in tatters, or drawing the extra defender to allow teammates to take the accolades, SBW was the form midfield player, by a long shot. He scored five tries in 15 starts for the Crusaders, and directly assisted in many more as the men from Christchurch wandered the globe and into yet another final.
Yet his consistent performances and his 1.91m, 104kg frame have not been able to secure the rugby league convert a starting place in the All Black squad, let alone the run-on team. Now his agent is claiming that off-the-field issues are adding to the star’s frustration as he contemplates his sporting future.
SBW is currently at loggerheads with the NZRU over an endorsement deal for an energy drink that does not belong to team sponsor Coca-Cola’s stable of products. The NZRU has refused SBW the endorsement although Richie McCaw and Dan Carter endorse their own bottled water brands.
Graham Henry has made it clear his favourites in the midfield are Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith, giving SBW very limited opportunities to prove himself in the black jersey. All these issues have led to stalling negotiations that have seen SBW delay the signing of a one-year contract extension to stay in New Zealand once the World Cup is over. DM