Sonny Bill Williams pays tribute to ‘humble, caring and fierce’ Sam Whitelock

Colin Newboult
Former All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock, who has been praised by Sonny Bill Williams.

Former All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock, who has been praised by Sonny Bill Williams.

Sonny Bill Williams has hailed fellow All Blacks great Sam Whitelock after the second-row announced his retirement from the game.

The 35-year-old will call it a day at the end of the season, forgoing the chance to potentially represent the national team during the 2024 Test season.

It was reported that Scott Robertson had approached Whitelock about possibly heading back following his stint in Pau and playing under the former Crusaders head coach once again.

Turning down Robertson offer

Robertson is concerned that their lock stocks are a bit callow below Scott Barrett and Patrick Tuipulotu, but the outstanding forward has decided to put family first by hanging up his boots.

Plenty of greats, including Williams, have since paid tribute to the great man, who became New Zealand’s most-capped player last year.

They were both part of the incredible All Blacks era between 2010 and 2017, which saw them become the first team to claim back-to-back Rugby World Cup titles.

“One (of) the best to ever wear an All Blacks jersey,” Williams wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Was always humble and caring, yet fierce and a player you’d follow into battle any day of the week.

“He had a special way where he could relate to all the boys from all backgrounds in the sheds. Grateful to have suited up alongside brother Sam.”

Quiz: Can you name the All Blacks squad from Sam Whitelock’s Test debut?

Whitelock made his debut under Sir Graham Henry but most of his Test career came while Sir Steve Hansen was at the helm.

Hansen was effusive with his praise, describing the second-row as a “bit of an overthinker” due to the fact that “he really cared.”

‘He will be in folklore’

“Most overthinkers really want to be successful, and right from day one he really wanted to be a great All Black, not just an All Black, not just there making up the numbers,” the former All Blacks head coach told 1News.

“They’re the athletes you want because you can do something with them, because they want to do something themselves. He just got better and better.

“I think he’s a modern-day Colin Meads. He will be in folklore.

“I certainly put him in the same category as [Richie] McCaw, [Kieran] Read, [Dan] Carter… all those legends that we’ve had. He came very close to being the first All Black to lift the [World Cup] trophy three times.

“He’s the full package. He’s not somebody that went out and played rugby and cared about himself. He cared about everybody. You couldn’t ask for anything more.”

READ MORE: Quiz: Can you name the 25 most capped international rugby players of all-time?