All Blacks captain Sam Cane ends tough year with top NZ Rugby award for 2020

All Blacks captain Sam Cane received the top honour at the NZ Rugby awards on Thursday night.

Cane, who led the All Blacks to the defence of the Bledisloe Cup and the Tri Nations title in his first year as skipper, claimed the Kelvin R Tremain Memorial award during a made-for-TV special on Sky Sport.

At the start of the year no-one dared predict openside flanker Cane, who replaced Kieran Read when he retired from test rugby after the World Cup in Japan, would have to negotiate such a difficult year.

The uncertainty created by Covid-19 meant Cane and his fellow All Blacks faced multiple challenges; this included playing just 2 tests in New Zealand, and being denied the opportunity to test themselves against the world champion Springboks and tour the Northern Hemisphere.

Despite a modest return during his first year in charge, a first-ever loss to Argentina and a defeat and draw to Australia meant the All Blacks’ won just 3 of their 6 tests and dropped to No 3 on the World Rugby rankings, Cane put in some of his best performances of his All Blacks’ career.

He was also named as the All Blacks’ player of the year ahead of Aaron Smith and Dane Coles.

The Black Ferns Sevens team’s domination of the world stage was again recognised. It collected the New Zealand team of the year for the third consecutive year.

Livewire Black Ferns and Canterbury halfback Kendra Cocksedge received the Fiao’o Faamausili Medal for the Farah Palmer Cup player of the year award, while Chelsea Alley of Waikato took out the top honour for the Black Ferns.

Black Ferns Sevens coaches Allan Bunting and Cory Sweeney won the New Zealand coach of the year award, and Crusaders coach Scott Robertson again collected the national coach of the year gong.

Crusaders No 10 Richie Mo’unga was named Super Rugby player of the year, beating out Aaron Smith, Patrick Tuipulotu and Jordie Barrett.

All Blacks halfback Smith was nominated for 3 categories, but came away empty-handed. Stacey Fluhler, who was also up for 3 awards, was named Black Ferns Sevens player of the year.

It was also a good night for Hawke’s Bay’s Ash Dixon and Folau Fakatava.

Hooker Dixon (Ngāti Tahinga) won the Tom French Memorial Maori Player of the year award halfback Folau Fakatava received the Duane Monkley Medal for being the best player in the men’s provincial competition.

Mitre 10 premiership champions Tasman won the national team of the year award. Scott Curry was the All Blacks Sevens player of the year.

This year’s Steinlager Salver, the New Zealand Rugby tradition of recognising an outstanding contribution to rugby, went to rugby legend and former All Black Sir Bryan Williams.

Williams is a figurehead of the game, contributing as a player, coach and administrator for more than 50 years, his commitment has also been recognised as an inductee into the World Rugby Hall of Fame and a Knighthood in 2018. More recently has been a key figure behind the Moana Pasifika team.

Referee Paul Williams won the New Zealand Referee of the Year Award for the second year in a row.

With Covid-19 restrictions in place, Williams became the first New Zealand referee to control an All Blacks fixture in 40 years when he refereed the All Blacks vs Australia Test in Wellington in October.