The Waratahs Rugby have confirmed the signing of former All Black Zac Guildford for the 2016 Super Rugby season, on a short-term contract for 10 months.
Guildford, whose agility has increased substantially, will commence his time with the Waratahs at the conclusion of New Zealand's ITM Cup tournament, where he is contracted to the Hawke’s Bay Magpies.
Head Coach Daryl Gibson said the signing of explosive 26 year-old would provide an instant solution to the loss of a number of senior players at the conclusion of the 2015 season.
"There were a few reasons we opted to sign Zac, not having three of our starting outside backs in Ashley-Cooper, Naiyaravoro, and Betham was a big drain on experience in the backs," said Gibson.
"We’ve got some excellent young emerging prospects in the squad, like Andrew Kellaway, Henry Clunies-Ross, and Harry Jones – all of whom will be quality players given time – but I felt like I needed a ready-made player who has been proven at Super Rugby level.
Gibson acknowledged that Guildford would face a challenging environment to earn the respect of his teammates at the NSW Waratahs following a tumultuous few years in professional rugby.
"I’ve spoken with Zac extensively, and he is prepared to earn the respect of his teammates through his actions, and to uphold the values of our club," Gibson said.
"The coaching staff at Hawkes Bay were generous enough to allow him some time to visit us for a few days, and it gave us the opportunity to make our expectations really clear to Zac about being here at the Waratahs.
"He’s probably been carrying that ‘bad-boy’ baggage around with him for the past few years, and from my observations he has moved past it and grown up a bit -his challenge will be to demonstrate he can make good choices and prove that.
"Of course his signature comes with risks for both parties, but we strongly believe in his ability and will support him with his efforts to continue his rugby career, he’s highly motivated and aspirational about his career -so our challenge will be to get the best out of him.
Gibson is confident the team environment will prove to be positive for Guildford, and said he was thrilled to have a player of his calibre in the playing group.
"This is a great opportunity for Zac, and he’s got plenty to prove so it will be up to him to create a good outcome for both himself and the team.
"We’re prepared to build the support systems around him so he can thrive and be successful, and I'm excited to work with him again and see what he can teach our young players; and watch him combine with some of Australia's best talent on the field."
Guildford played 11 Tests for the All Blacks, debuting against Wales in 2009, and was a part of the 2011 World Cup winning squad. He started his Super Rugby career with the Hurricanes in 2008, playing 18 matches before moving to the Crusaders ahead of the 2010 season.
He earned 61 Caps for the Crusaders, and has also represented New Zealand Maori and New Zealand Sevens, winning a Commonwealth Games gold medal in 2010 in Delhi. He most recently played for French Top 14 club Clermont Auvergne.