Wellington – As the All Blacks gear up for this weekend’s Rugby World Cup final, the unlikely hero of their 2011 triumph, Stephen Donald, announced his return to Super Rugby on Wednesday.
The Chiefs said Donald would be back for the 2016 season, more than four years after he came off the bench and kicked New Zealand to victory in the 2011 World Cup final.
Coach Dave Rennie said the 31-year-old pivot, known as Beaver, would act as an on-field mentor to young talent such as Damien McKenzie for the two-time champions.
“Beaver’s back… he loves the Chiefs jersey and is desperate to win a title… he missed out on the success in 2012 and 2013,” Rennie said.
“He’s got a lot to offer our boys and is obviously very experienced.”
Donald was on the outer with the All Blacks before the 2011 World Cup after being blamed for a loss to Australia the previous year.
He decided to go fishing rather than watch the tournament but received a late call up after injuries to Dan Carter and Colin Slade.
Then Aaron Cruden limped off in the first half of the final against France and Donald took to the field, bursting out of a spare shirt belonging to the diminutive Cruden because he had none of his own.
Donald kicked a wobbly penalty early in the second half which was enough to give New Zealand a tense 8-7 victory and end a 24-year drought for the host nation.
It was Donald’s last Test and he became a cult hero for All Black fans, going on to play club rugby in Britain and Japan.
He will be at Twickenham hosting a tour group during this weekend’s final between New Zealand and Australia – and will perhaps keep a properly-fitting All Black shirt close to hand in case he is needed again.