Yen lures SBW to Japan

2012-07-09 07:59

Wellington - All Blacks centre Sonny Bill Williams announced on Monday he will quit the world champion New Zealand team to play in Japan, then return to his old stomping ground, Australian rugby league.

Hailed as a "freakish" athlete by national coach Steve Hansen, the 26-year-old called time on a brief but eventful 17-Test rugby union career, which included helping New Zealand to victory at last year's Rugby World Cup.

Williams said he had signed with Japanese side Panasonic, in a deal reportedly worth $1.4 million, and would then switch to an unspecified National Rugby League (NRL) team in Australia.

"This is due to a handshake agreement made a few years ago with an NRL club," he told reporters. "I am not in a position to elaborate on that."

Williams, who also juggles a career as a part-time boxer, is widely tipped to join Bondi-based glamour club the Sydney Roosters.

He made his name in the NRL, winning the 2004 premiership with the Canterbury Bulldogs in his rookie season before controversially walking out on the club four years later and switching to rugby union with Toulon.

In 2010, he turned down a world-record $5.0 million offer from the French club and joined the Crusaders in the Super Rugby competition, intent on breaking into the All Blacks World Cup squad.

The 1.91 metre, 110 kilogram centre impressed enough to earn his All Black debut against England in November 2010, even though he was a rugby union novice with only a handful of senior games in New Zealand.

Hansen said that, at the time, Williams had limited understanding of the 15-a-side game but made up for it with his freakish abilities and high skill levels.

He said Williams had since developed his rugby smarts to become a truly world class player, citing his performances in the recent series whitewash against Ireland.

"While Sonny has been with New Zealand rugby for only a short time, his contribution has been immense," Hansen said in a statement, adding that he was disappointed at Williams' departure but wished him well.

Williams' management ensured the player signed only one-year contracts after he returned to New Zealand, leaving his options open after the World Cup.

After a year with the Crusaders, when the Christchurch team made the Super Rugby final, he moved to the Chiefs, who currently lead the competition and are favourites to win their first title.

That would allow Williams to leave New Zealand rugby on a high. He will not participate in the Rugby Championship, the revamped southern hemisphere competition featuring New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Argentina.

Williams, who is also the New Zealand heavyweight boxing champion with a career record of five wins, three by knockout, did not rule out the possibility of making yet another code switch and eventually returning to rugby union.

"If things work out I'd like to one day come back," he said. "But I'm not going to hold my breath because there are good players coming up."


  • lionel.kemm.9 - 2012-07-09 08:04

    Wonder if its the sushi that he is after:):)

      jason.children - 2012-07-09 08:30

      Morning Boet, he is going to be playing alongside Jacque Fourie!! Imagine that centre pairing??? Holy Moly!

      lionel.kemm.9 - 2012-07-09 08:34

      Morning,those offloads of his will be awesome,up Jaques ally.Great centre pairing that.

      jason.children - 2012-07-09 08:53

      And well done to our boys for Taking the conference 2 years running.................just hope they can pull it through! Play off stages is not about 4 tries but about winning rugby which we have been doing all season! I would have posted this on the relevant article, but when i came on I found that the trolls had already ruined it.

      lionel.kemm.9 - 2012-07-09 08:58

      Trolls are still in hiding after there defeat Friday I posted something on the Rob Houwings article ''Stormers to go top'' about the boys winning the conference cup.

      Pat - 2012-07-09 12:53

      Taking the conference 2 years running!! HOORAY, WOOHOO, YIPEE, WOW!! 2 years running!! how many super rugby titles again??? i know..... 0,zero,nought,nothing,f%$k all!!! but well done for taking the conference, your trophy is in the mail!!

  • ChrisinOz294 - 2012-07-09 08:17

    At last it is confirmed, $onny Bill William$ will join the Sanzar retirement village (a.k.a. Japanese rugby), along with Danie Rossouw, Fourie du Preez, George Smith etc.

      norman.harris.754 - 2012-07-09 12:00 must be a 343lb couch man who has never done much before...? let the guy live out his chances, he only has one. no regrets!!!

      ChrisinOz294 - 2012-07-09 23:24

      By starting with an insult, you just made your so-called opinion laughable.

  • Deon - 2012-07-09 08:22

    Coin it brother coin it!

  • dhirshan.gobind - 2012-07-09 08:38

    great for the game in asia that all these super stars are playing there!

  • Provence - 2012-07-09 11:17

    He is a successful businessman let him do business. Springboks are saying, "Wow, we have a chance now!" The man is so gifted and so skillful. He can pick and choose and why not?

  • henningbrazer - 2012-07-09 11:59

    With all these stars there, I actually would not mind watching some of these games. Supersport - are you listening?

  • Pat - 2012-07-09 12:10

    cant believe that sum of u springsucks knobs actually think SONNY BILL MILLIONS is scared to face frans"flash-in-the-pan" stain??? wow, a new low for springsucks rugby supporters!! shame :/

      jason.children - 2012-07-09 12:33

      Cant believe that you cant spell Some, You and Steyn. Not one of them is over letters long! Shame!

      Pat - 2012-07-09 12:40

      cant believe u actually took time to respond to my comment with that!! i shorten my words, so wot, how relevant is ur comment??? u knob!!

  • ej.smith.589 - 2012-07-09 14:45

    Good luck! I think Japan is an ideal place for SBW. Hopefully it will raise the profile of the game in Japan. SBW would of had a chance to become a rugby great. I dont think he will be highly regarded in union anymore because to become a great you show a sustained high level performance over a long period of time. SBW leaving now wont prove any of that.

  • michele.neveling - 2012-07-09 20:51

    I would love to see SBW come up against F Steyn, Steyns ball skills have really improved these last couple of years and his defence and game breaking abilities are among the best in the world.:-)

  • pages:
  • 1