The New Zealand rugby awards take place in
Auckland tonight. Rugby writer Steve Hepburn picks a few
Chiefs captain Craig Clarke.
Super rugby player of the year: Craig Clarke (Chiefs).
The tough lock captained the team to victory and was the rock
around a team of stars. The Chiefs tight five was seen before
the season as the barrier to success but Clarke made sure
that was not the case as the Hamilton-based outfit stormed to
ITM Cup player of the year: Charles Piutau (Auckland).
Piutau took to the ITM Cup like a duck to water, and was a
constant threat from the back for Auckland. Ran hard and
always made the advantage line. Scored a couple of crucial
tries to help Auckland make the final.
Sevens player of the year: Tim Mikkelson (Waikato).
The Mooloo man does not look overly quick. Tall and
relatively thin, his gangly appearance is deceptive as he is
fast and skilful and can break tackles. Made many tries for a
successful New Zealand sevens side.
Coach of the year: Steve Hansen (All Blacks).
One blip in a year where the All Blacks swept most of what
was put in front of them. Hansen grew into the role quickly
and made some well-judged calls throughout the season. But
some tough ones await next year.
Team of the year: Chiefs.
They really were the fairytale of the year. They ended the
first game of the competition with two of their best
front-rowers crocked and seemingly devoid of spirit. But they
turned it round to win a breakthrough title. Will be tough
for the other contenders - All Blacks and Canterbury - to
Player of the year: Richie McCaw.
The All Black captain just shades the other candidates,
Kieran Read and Conrad Smith, who blotted their copybooks
thanks to 80 minutes at Twickenham a couple of weeks ago.
McCaw never played a bad game, captained his side to plenty
of silverware, and his own game saw him became more of a
runner than an out-and-out fetcher.