Former All Black Tana Umaga has
signed with the Waikato Chiefs to play Super 15 rugby next year, the
club said on Thursday, capping a remarkable return to New Zealand.

37-year-old moved back to his homeland earlier this year after a stint
with French side Toulon to take up a role as player-coach with domestic
team Counties Manukau.

But his impact on the field, helping lift
Counties from wooden spooners to ninth in the competition, convinced the
Chiefs he could still perform in the elite Southern Hemisphere

“We’ve been really impressed with Tana as a player
and his impact with Counties on his return from Europe,” Chiefs coach
Ian Foster said.

“We believe he will be a valuable asset to the team as he brings a high level of experience, knowledge and leadership.”

Umaga, who was capped 79 times for New Zealand and captained the All Blacks 21
times, first played Super rugby when the tournament began in 1996.

He will be 38 during next year’s competition.

“I’m pleased that I am still able to contribute both on and off the field,” he said.

for the Chiefs was a good fit as I will be able to continue to work
with some of the key Counties Manukau players, like Fritz Lee and Tim
Nanai Williams.”