Former Chiefs and All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams has taken a step closer to returning to Super Rugby by signing to play in the ITM Cup with the Counties Manukau Steelers.
Williams has signed a two year deal with the current Ranfurly Shield holders and the Chiefs for the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
Steelers Coach Tana Umaga is rapt to be reunited with Williams. "Sonny is an outstanding man, whose work ethic, ability and motivation are exceptional. He will be a great role model to our younger players and an inspiration to the young people of South Auckland."
The powerful midfielder is looking forward to joining Counties Manukau. "I like what is happening at Counties. I know a few boys in the side and enjoyed working with Tana.
"I have enjoyed my time in Australia and at the end of the season I will be ready for next chapter of my career back in New Zealand."
Counties Manukau Rugby CEO Andrew Maddock said, "It is great that a sportsman of Sonny's caliber has chosen to join us and will open another exciting phase for Counties Manukau rugby."
Williams is expected to return to New Zealand once he has finished his commitments with his NRL team, the Sydney Roosters and will play his Super Rugby for the Chiefs for the next two seasons.
Sonny Bill Williams was part of the 2011 World Cup winning All Blacks, the 2011 Super Rugby Champion Chiefs side, the 2011 ITM Cup winning Canterbury side and a 2013 NRL Grand Final winner.
The Counties Manukau Steelers season officially starts with two Ranfurly Shield matches against Thames Valley on Wednesday 2 July and Mid Canterbury the following week on Wednesday 9 July. Both matches will be played at ECOLight Stadium at 6pm.