Sonny Bill Williams will play for the Chiefs in 2012.
Williams has signed with the New Zealand Rugby Union in a one year contract and has chosen the Chiefs over the Blues.
The move means Williams can partner All Black centre-turned-wing Richard Kahui in the midfield and he also gets to work with former All Blacks backs specialist Wayne Smith.
Aaron Cruden is another who has moved from the Hurricanes to the Chiefs.
NZRU General Manager Professional Rugby Neil Sorensen was thrilled Williams has committed to New Zealand rugby.
‘He was exciting to watch in Super Rugby this year, and he played an important role in the spectacular Rugby World Cup winning All Blacks side,’ Sorensen told the media.
‘He’s a special player who creates some real excitement and interest in the game with his style of rugby. We’re looking forward to seeing him create some more excitement in a Chiefs, as well as an All Blacks, jersey next year.’
Chiefs CEO Gary Dawson was as delighted.
‘He is a world-class athlete who brings with him a unique set of skills and qualities.’
New Chiefs coach David Rennie said Williams would be influential in the rebuilding of the Chiefs, who had lost several players to European clubs.
‘We are rapt Sonny’s joining the Chiefs. He had a very good World Cup and his professionalism and work ethic will have a great influence on what is a very young team,’ said Rennie.
New Zealand rugby boss Steve Tew said they had been hugely motivated to retain a player who has become the most marketable in the game.
‘Sonny Bill has been fantastic for rugby this year,’ said Tew. ‘The interest he has brought to the game, the new people he has brought to the game and even the way he’s played has been absolutely outstanding. Steve Hansen summed it up well when he said the longer he plays, the better he’s going to be. He has got unfulfilled potential in our sport.
‘He brings an on and off-field component to the game that no other athlete probably since Jonah has brought. It’s incredibly helpful off the paddock and it’s incredibly helpful for the team he plays for on the paddock.’
Williams played for the Crusaders in the 2011 Super Rugby season and for Canterbury in the 2011 domestic season. He previously played for Toulon in the south of France.