Sonny Bill Williams.
Sonny Bill Williams. NZ Herald - Christine Cornege

Williams no closer to decision

DEPENDING on if you are in touch with people in Auckland or Hamilton, Sonny Bill Williams is going to be wearing the Blues or Chiefs uniform next season.

Each franchise has been confident the All Black utility back would link up with their Super 15 franchise next season but they are also edgy about the boundaries and influence of his management group.

They were certain Williams would boost crowd numbers and generate greater interest about their teams but wondered about the spinoff issues, the dramas which seem to accompany him.

There is a third option which could play out. Williams could decide he has finished with rugby and/or New Zealand and take his sporting talents overseas again. He has mentioned he wants to do only another year's rugby here and after some recent kerfuffles could decide not to pursue that season.

He mentioned he would decide on his future after the World Cup but that path became complicated when he missed the nationwide tournament celebrations as he tended a sick relative in hospital in Auckland.

The New Zealand Rugby Union and the Blues thought they had persuaded Williams a while back that he would be a strong fit with the Pat Lam-coached franchise.

But Williams' manager Khoder Nasser became uneasy when the union baulked at ideas for his client to endorse rival drink sponsors.

Negotiations became more entangled because Nasser was upset at Williams' omission from the playing XV and reserves used in the Tri-Nations decider in Brisbane.

At that stage All Black coach Graham Henry admitted he was surprised at the protracted negotiations and soon after Williams said he would delay a decision until the end of the World Cup.

He was involved in the early stages of the tournament but got minimal playing time in the semifinal and final. Williams then bypassed celebrations to care for his ill grandmother until she left hospital this week.

So rugby followers wait.

There are ample vacancies in the Chiefs backline with Mils Muliaina, Dwayne Sweeney, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Stephen Donald and Mike Delany all taking up overseas contracts and Tana Umaga an uncertain pick after his Achilles tendon surgery.

It's a bit tighter at the Blues. They could put out a backline of Alby Mathewson, Piri Weepu, Ma'a Nonu, Rudi Wulf, Williams, Rene Ranger and Isaia Toeava - one that's chockful of talented athletes who will take some handling.

There's also a suggestion about Henry easing his vastly experienced talents back from summer leave into an advisory role with the Blues. He held that post in 2003 when the Blues won their last title and has been a mentor and close confidant for Lam.

That may or may not be an incentive for Williams who could also link up with Wayne Smith at the Chiefs.


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