All Blacks great Ma’a Nonu is making a shock return to Super Rugby after signing a one-year deal with the Blues.
The veteran inside centre, 36, will end a three-year stint with French club Toulon to play under long-time friend and mentor Tana Umaga.
Nonu retired from Test rugby after New Zealand defended their World Cup crown in 2015, ending a 103-Test career which featured 31 tries.
He wanted to return to New Zealand for the sake of his wife Andrea and three children and will take up a third stint at the Blues, having played there in 2012 and 2014.
His other Super Rugby ties were nine seasons at the Hurricanes and one with the Highlanders in 2013.
Umaga said Nonu will bring crucial experience to a Blues backline which he conceded was too youthful as they crashed to a 14th-placed finish in 2018, winning just four of 16 games.
Nonu’s arrival should mean speedster Rieko Ioane isn’t needed as often in the midfield and can play on the wing where he is most effective, Umaga added.
Nonu said he was grateful for the opportunity to resume a Super Rugby career that began in 2003.
“Hopefully next year will be a year to build and to be successful. That is the challenge I am looking forward to.
“I know the Blues have had some tough times in the last few seasons but I am excited to play with some of the young and up-and-coming players who will have long careers and rejuvenate this place.”
Despite their resources and large catchment area, the Blues haven’t reached the Super Rugby play-offs since 2011.