Brave Blossoms loose forward Kazuki Himeno has been recognised for his impressive debut season with the Highlanders after being named Super Rugby Aotearoa’s rookie of the year.
Himeno missed the first three matches of the 2021 competition but once he made the line-up he impressed fans and critics alike with multiple impressive performances, including a breakout performance against the defending champion Crusaders in the Highlanders’ 33-12 upset win.
The award is decided by writers for AllBlacks.com, who award points to players after matches – three points for the best rookie, two for second-best and one for third – based on their performances, with Himeno eventually coming out on top.
Himeno (11 points) narrowly beat out teammate Connor Garden-Bachop (10) for the title with young Blues lock Sam Darry (8) finishing third.
The 26-year-old qualified for the award despite being a 17-Test player for Japan due to this being his first Super Rugby season with a New Zealand side.