Super Rugby
SBW second coming puts Chiefs on top
ESPN Staff
December 19, 2014
Sonny Bill Williams has wasted little time settling back into the 15-man game © Getty Images

Sonny Bill Williams' return to Hamilton has rocketed the Chiefs into favouritism for next year's Super Rugby title.

Williams made his return to rugby soon after his Sydney Roosters exited the NRL finals; the code-hopper turning out for ITM Cup side Counties Manukau just three weeks after the preliminary final loss to South Sydney.

He was then included on the All Blacks' tour of the United States and Europe, and made his return to the Test arena in the 74-6 thrashing of the Eagles at Chicago's Soldier Field. Two tries in that match as well as starts against England and Wales showed he'd lost few of the skills that made him one of the game's most dangerous players in 2012.

"The return of Sonny Bill Williams has already had an impact as we've put the Chiefs up $4 favourites," Gerard Middleton from told ESPN. "At this stage, punters seem wary about the Waratahs' chances of going back-to-back, possibly due to Michael Cheika having to juggle the Wallabies job as well.

"While the 'Tahs are next at $4.75, the second best backed side after the Chiefs is the Reds at $13 with punters clearly taken by their aggressive off-season recruiting."

Much of the interest around the Reds recruitment drive will be focused on another code-hopper Karmichael Hunt. Fellow signing James O'Connor is expected to slot comfortably onto the wing but Hunt is somewhat of an unknown quantity having spent the last few years in AFL; although he does have some rugby grounding from a brief stint with Biarritz in 2010.

While Williams' return to Hamilton is sure to help generate plenty of off-field buzz, coach Dave Rennie was earlier this week singing the praises of another recruit, rising star Damian McKenzie.

"What we've found in the last couple of years is that it helps having players who can play multiple positions," Rennie told the Waikato Times. "Having Damian who can play 10 and 15 is great. We've got a number of options at 15, and his brother and Aaron, and even Andrew Horrell as a 10 option, so there's good competition for places."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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