All Blacks superstar Sonny Bill Williams is set to make his highly-anticipated return to frontline action for the Blues in the coming weeks.
Williams has been sidelined for nearly nine months since suffering a serious Achilles injury while on duty with the New Zealand Sevens team at last year’s Rio Olympics.
After completing an intensive and often innovative rehabilitation programme, the 33-Test cap All Blacks could even make his comeback as early as this weekend when the Blues are set to take on the Highlanders in round seven of Super Rugby.
Blues coach Tana Umaga expressed cautious optimism that Williams would be back sooner rather than later.
“It’s looking good. He has been training with us, and it’s how he feels after he trains,” Umaga told a New Zealand radio station. “If he can get many days where he feels good after training, then that’s the process we’re going through at the moment, where he’s pain-free after one training, and then he can get through a whole week of training.
“It’s good (for him) to be back, but it’s hard to say whether it’s this weekend, next weekend or after the bye.”
Williams has occasionally divided opinion as the result of the regularity with which he has changed teams and codes (rugby league, rugby union and sevens), while also dabbling in the boxing ring.
However, there can be no denying that the prolifically talented utility back would provide a major boost to a Blues team that has endured an up-and-down start to the Super Rugby season.
Williams signed a three-year-deal with the Blues last June, but his debut has been delayed as he completed his recovery from that long-term injury.
The 31-year-old’s decision to commit his immediate future to rugby union has also not escaped the attention of All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, who has said he will be closely monitoring Williams’ return to play.
That occasion for his comeback is now just around the corner.