SBW creates late gap
The Chiefs have just two more positions to fill in their 2014 squad but one might have caught them by surprise.
The decision by Sonny Bill Williams not to return to the Chiefs next season has left them short of a midfield back just 10 days before the deadline for New Zealand Super Rugby squads need to be finalised.
The announcement that the Chiefs had re-signed two familiar faces for their forward pack left just a third halfback and Williams to complete their squad.
But then the announcement that Williams had turned down the Chiefs and New Zealand Rugby Union for 2014 and was staying with the Sydney Roosters in the NRL meant the Chiefs suddenly had to hunt out another midfield back or go with 31 players.
While Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has always maintained confidence the franchise would have Williams back in 2015 but were unsure about 2014, it appears they were confident of getting him back for next season, which would have given him time to establish himself as an All Blacks starter Rugby World Cup.
Now the Chiefs, after Rennie and Wayne Smith, along with New Zealand Rugby Union general manager professional Neil Sorenson, made a flying but unsuccessful visit to Sydney on Thursday to try to convince SBW to sign on the dotted line, have to go to plan B.
The back-to-back Super Rugby champions have re-signed former Chiefs No8/ lock Kane Thompson and Wellington lock Ross Filipo for one season.
Thompson, 31, returns to the Chiefs after a season in Japan with the Canon Eagles, while Filipo extends his time with the Chiefs having been with the side for the first time last season.
Rennie said he appreciated the experience the 1.98m Super Rugby-winning duo would offer his side.
‘‘Both of these players are good men and quality players who have international experience,’’ said Rennie. ‘‘We have had a lot of Chiefs’ caps head overseas, so their experience will be invaluable.’’
Filipo is looking forward to another season with the current champions.
The 114kg lock has played four tests and one other game for the All Blacks and has been part of the Maori All Blacks since 2005. Filipo, who was troubled by injuries this year, played just two matches for the Chiefs, but has previously played 45 for the Crusaders and 60 for Wellington.