Three champion teams are vying for the coveted adidas Team of the Year Award at this year’s Steinlager Rugby Awards – back-to-back Rugby World Cup winners the All Blacks, the World Champion New Zealand Under 20 team, and 2015 Investec Super Rugby Champions, the Highlanders.
The winner will be unveiled at the 2015 Steinlager Rugby Awards on Friday 11 December. The event is again being held at Auckland’s Viaduct Events Centre and broadcast on SKY Sport.
Achievement across rugby is celebrated at the annual awards. This year notable volunteers and club stalwarts from Stokes Valley, Pakuranga and Feilding will rub shoulders with New Zealand’s best up and coming rugby players, referees and standout players across sevens and national and regional competitions. The Steinlager Salver Award recognising a person’s exceptional contribution to New Zealand rugby will also be announced on the night.
This year World Rugby Player of the Year Dan Carter, the latest Test centurion, Ma’a Nonu, and team-mates Dane Coles and Ben Smith are all nominated for the Kelvin R Tremain Player of the Year Award.
World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year Nehe Milner-Skudder (Ng?ti Porou) excelled on his debut year in the black jersey and is nominated for the Tom French Memorial Maori Player of the Year. He’s up against Taranaki’s Charlie Ngatai (Ng?ti Porou/Te Whanau-?-Apanui) who earned his first All Blacks cap in 2015, and last year’s winner of this award, All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith (Ng?ti Kahungunu).
Smith’s electric form for the Highlanders sees the energetic halfback also earn a nod for Investec Super Rugby Player of the Year. He’s vying for that award with team mate and first five-eighth Lima Sopoaga whose excellent season saw him earn an All Blacks cap, and bustling Hurricanes lock James Broadhurst who also made his All Blacks debut this year.
It has been a standout year for three of New Zealand’s top coaches who are nominated for Coach of the Year. Under Steve Hansen’s watch the All Blacks made history with back-to-back World Cup triumphs, retained their number one world ranking for the sixth straight year and lost just one match.
Two former All Blacks make up the other two nominations - Highlanders Head Coach Jamie Joseph is nominated after taking the team to their first ever Investec Super Rugby title. Scott Robertson is recognised for steering Canterbury to their seventh ITM Cup win and helping to mastermind New Zealand’s victory at the World Rugby Under 20 Championship in Italy.
Women’s rugby also enjoyed a stellar year. The Black Ferns dominated the Super Series in Canada, sweeping aside the hosts, World Champions England and the USA. The New Zealand Women’s Sevens team qualified for Rio 2016 and secured their third successive Women’s Series title.
Black Ferns halfback Kendra Cocksedge, who was named World Rugby’s Women’s Player of the Year last month, earns a nomination alongside long serving captain Fiao'o Fa'amausili and team-mate Linda Itunu.
In the Women’s Sevens category, World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year Portia Woodman is up against captain and 2014 award winner Sarah Goss and Tyla Nathan-Wong.
The All Blacks Sevens also qualified for Rio after finishing a close third to World Series winners Fiji and runners up South Africa. New captain Scott Curry is nominated for the Richard Crawshaw Sevens Player of the Year Award alongside speedster Rieko Ioane who embraced sevens with style in his debut year. Playmaker Joe Webber also excelled this season and earns his first nomination.
The Sky Television Fans Try of the Year features 15 of the best from 2015. Fans have a chance to vote for their favourite and three of the most popular tries will be shortlisted for the award in early December.
The All Blacks, Brodie Retallick and Steve Hansen picked up the major honours in 2014. For a full list of winners that year please click here.
IT HAS BEEN A STANDOUT YEAR FOR THREE OF NEW ZEALAND’S TOP COACHES WHO ARE NOMINATED FOR COACH OF THE YEAR