Will Sonny Bill Williams’ kicking display prove intent enough to oust his competition for the All Blacks' twelve jersey?
The multi-talented Sonny Bill Williams has become one of the sport’s most famous recognisable names, and one that has become synonymous with possessing a penchant for offloads. But will his kicking display against the Sharks prove intent enough to oust his competition for All Blacks' twelve jersey?
The multi-talented Sonny Bill Williams has become one of the sport’s most famous names. The former Rugby League player and boxer’s name has become synonymous with any player displaying a penchant for offloading tendencies. Former Argentina captain Agustin Creevy and Gloucester centre Mark Atkinson are two such names to receive the ‘Sonny Bill’ treatment from teammates after displaying their dexterous inclinations.
However, despite the 6ft4” rangy frame built for such handling skills and the physical role he fulfils at inside centre, it was from the boot that the 33-year-old surprised viewers over the weekend.
Putting aside one rushed misfire of a clearance that even referee Paul Williams described as “rubbish”, Sonny Bill managed to execute a cross-field kick that caught this journalist rubbing his eyes, half convinced the 4:15 am start for the first of four Super Rugby games, and far too much caffeine, had made him delirious.
The sight of Sonny Bill’s boot being used for anything other than a mean step, hit and offload has been a rare sight during his truncated 11-year Union career. Just short of the half-time buzzer and ten minutes after that clearance kick, the 51-times-capped All Black managed to take the Blues from camping deep into their own 22 to tearing into the Sharks’, their South African opposition on Saturday, half.
If he can refine his technique, Williams' may be able to offer a vital kicking option in the high-pressure World Cup arena later this year; when the former Toulon, Crusaders and Chiefs player will be hunting a record third successive World Champion's title.
Clearly, Williams is still some distance off the likes of second playmakers Kurtley Beale and Owen Farrell – when deployed at inside centre – but it seems clear he will be making a concerted effort to widen the skillset he can provide All Blacks boss Steve Hansen. With Ryan Crotty, Jack Goodhue, Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown and potentially even returned centurion Ma’a Nonu all pushing for starting roles, the Test veteran will need to prove himself a utilitarian figure to become a certain starter without a shadow of a doubt in Japan this September.