Higher honours for All Black coach
NEWS: Former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen became Sir Stephen on Tuesday.
He received a knighthood in the New Zealand New Year’s honours list, but insisted he was still “plain old Steve”.
Although Hansen fell short in his bid to guide the All Blacks to a third consecutive World Cup this year, losing to England in the semi-finals, the award citation noted his outstanding contribution to Rugby Union.
The straight-talking coach with a wry sense of humour spent eight years as an assistant under Graham Henry, who was also knighted after winning the 2011 World Cup, and then eight years in charge.
During his time at the helm, the All Blacks won the 2015 World Cup, finished third in 2019, were World Rugby’s team of the year five times, won the Rugby Championship six times and retained the Bledisloe Cup, played annually against Australia, in all eight years.
Hansen told Television New Zealand he had feelings of “immense pride, humbleness” when informed of his knighthood and paid tribute to his wife and the players he has worked with.
“I’ll be forever grateful for the talent we’ve been able to coach, and grateful for the awesome management and back up staff that we’ve had. You can’t do this by yourself, so this honour’s very much theirs as well,” he said.
But while grateful to be awarded the honour, the idea of being called “Sir Steven” did not sit well with him.
“I’m just plain old Steve, and that’s how I’d prefer to be called going forward too.”
Hansen, who grew up wanting to be a jockey and started his working life as a policeman, said coaching was something he never thought he would be good at but he wanted to give something back to the sport he had played.
“I just loved playing the game, I got a lot out of it as a player and I felt a duty to go back and give something back to it. Coaching, for me, was the obvious thing,” he said.
Kieran Read, who retired as All Blacks captain after the recent World Cup, praised Hansen’s man-management in his recently-released autobiography “Straight Eight”.
“Steve was not without his idiosyncrasies of course. He could be deviously manipulative when he wanted to be, painfully cryptic too, and needed his people to know that ultimately he was in charge,” Read wrote.
“For all that, though, there was an awful lot of softness underneath, and we could tell that he genuinely cared about all his players in a way that Graham (Henry) could never fully express.”
Since taking over as head coach in 2012, Hansen fashioned an impressive 86.9 percent winning record from 107 Tests with 93 victories, four draws and 10 losses.
Hansen said it was a record he was “extremely proud of” and the semi-final loss to England should not define the All Blacks under his watch.
The outgoing New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew was made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, another of the country’s top honours.