JOHANNESBURG -Sonny Bill Williams has received a lot of press this week - he’s been the subject of plenty of twitter talk and he’s cropped up on more than one meme, but it’s on the rugby field where the All Blacks star will want to leave his mark this weekend.
His name will probably be seen more on the banners and posters at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth today, tomorrow and Sunday than at Ellis Park tomorrow, but it’s in Joburg where the Blues centre poses the biggest threat to the sporting equilibrium in South Africa this weekend.
Williams returns for the Auckland-based side for their Super Rugby clash with the Lions after missing out through injury last week and his return is sure to be a major boost to the former champions.
Tana Umaga’s men have played some of the best attacking rugby in recent years, including this season, too, yet they continue to struggle to go the distance and bank the wins.
The 32-year-old former league star divides opinion, but what is certain is that he has the potential, still, to be a highly influential figure on the rugby field and is sure to keep the Lions on their toes for the full 80 minutes tomorrow. His off-loads are legendary, but according to the Lions’ backline coach Neil de Bruin, there’s more to a rugby team than one “world class player”.
“His name has come up a few times this week,” said De Bruin about Williams. “He’s a world class player ... the Blues are a team full of superstars; there are quality players all over the park, but Sonny Bill is not our focal point. This game is about us and what we have to do to win. We have to be a better collective unit that what they are to beat them ... it’s as simple as that.”
Williams and Co will certainly be doing their best to unsettle that Lions collective ... and leave Joburg on Sunday having inflicted a rare defeat on the two-time runners-up. The midfield star’s partnership with fellow All Black Rieko Ioane promises to be one of the key areas the Lions will have to police if they’re to continue their recent dominance over the Blues.