Kazuki Himeno takes out Rookie of the Year title

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The 17-Test Japanese loose forward is no rookie when it comes to international rugby but is considered a rookie in Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa as it is his first year contracted to a New Zealand-based team.


Himeno missed the Highlanders opening three games before becoming a key cog in the forward pack for the Highlanders remaining five games of the regular season. A barn-storming ball runner, punishing defender and tireless worker around the park, Himeno ably filled the gap left by injuries to fellow loose forwards Liam Squire and Marino Mikaele-Tu’u.


At 1.87cm and 108kg, Himeno is an imposing figure at the back of the scrum and is poised to be a key figure for the Highlanders in their Super Rugby Trans-Tasman campaign which kicks off on Friday May 14 against the Reds in Dunedin.


Every week throughout Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa, we have awarded the three best performing rookies three, two or one points. Here are our three standout rookies from round 10 and the final leaderboard.



3 points: Kazuki Himeno (Highlanders)

Himeno was everywhere in a power-packed 47-minute appearance against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday night. A rampant run from Himeno led to the Highlanders first try of the night and it wasn’t the only time that the Japanese international penetrated the Hurricanes’ defence. When Himeno went off the field early in the second half, the Highlanders seemed to lose some of the steel in their defensive line as the Hurricanes took control of the match.


2 points: Ruben Love (Hurricanes)

Ruben Love turned 20 just two days prior to the round 10 clash against the Highlanders and celebrated by leading the Hurricanes to their second win of the season. Love’s play-making ability was to the fore as he set the Hurricanes exciting backline alight in a bonus-point victory over the team from the south. Love’s best moment came when he sliced through the Highlanders defence to set up Du Plessis Kirifi for a crucial try in the 52nd minute.


1 point: Zarn Sullivan (Blues)

Super Rugby debuts don’t get much better Zarn Sullivan’s first game for the Blues. Starting at fullback, Zarn Sullivan played a key role in Blues bonus-point win over the Chiefs and capped off the night with a try. To make things even more special, Zarn played against brother Bailyn who was on the left wing for the Chiefs.


NOTE: The qualification for rookies is players that are either playing in their first season of Super Rugby Aotearoa or who are playing their first season as a contracted New Zealand-based player and have played less than five games prior to 2021. AllBlacks.com writers select the rookie points each week. 




11 points: Kazuki Himeno (Highlanders)


10 points: Connor Garden-Bachop (Highlanders)


8 points: Sam Darry (Blues)


7 points: Ruben Love (Hurricanes)


5 points: Samipeni Finau (Chiefs)


4 points: Luke Campbell (Hurricanes)


3 points: Soane Vikena (Blues)


2 points: James Lay (Blues), Jack Regan (Highlanders), Adrian Choat (Blues), Kaylum Boshier (Chiefs)


1 point: Chay Fihaki (Crusaders), Josh Lord (Chiefs), Dallas McLeod (Crusaders), Zarn Sullivan (Blues)