Springbok centre Jean de Villiers was named SA Rugby Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year at rugby’s annual awards banquet – sponsored by Absa, Sasol and Vodacom – which took place at a glittering ceremony at Vodaworld, Midrand on Tuesday.
Rugby 365 reports that the 27-year-old Western Province player was the clear winner in a poll of South African rugby journalists for the SA Rugby Player of the Year title ahead of four players from the Sharks – hooker Bismarck du Plessis, centre Adrian Jacobs, No.8 Ryan Kankowski and prop sensation Beast Mtawarira.
De Villiers completed a memorable double as he was also awarded the prestigious Players’ Player of the Year Award, voted for by members of the South African Rugby Players’ Association (SARPA) – the first man to complete the double since Bok wing Ashwin Willemse won both in the 2003 season.
Ryan Kankowski’s outstanding year was recognised with four nominations – although he had to settle for just one award, with the Sharks No.8 chosen as South Africa’s Super 14 Player of the Year. He was also nominated for Sasol Young Player of the Year and Absa Currie Cup Premier Division Player of the Year, as well as for the main award, which De Villiers won.
Kankowski’s fellow Durban-based back row colleague, Jean Deysel also had his devastating form in the Sharks’ run to the Currie Cup title recognised when he was named the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division Player of the Year.
And, completing the Sharks’ joy was the award of two of the three new categories introduced this year. John Plumtree was chosen as Absa Coach of the Year, after helping the Sharks end their 12-year wait for a title with victory over the Blue Bulls in the Absa Currie Cup Final, while the Sharks’ Super 14 team was named as the Team of the Year after returning to the play-offs for a second successive year.
Another big winner on the night was Free State Cheetahs centre Robert Ebersohn, who was named Sasol Young Player of the Year. Ebersohn, also played for the SA Sevens team last season, beat a strong field to the Young Player Award, as well as also scooping the Sasol Under-20 Player of the Year Award.
Veteran Zimbabwean ace Kennedy Tsimba was named as the Absa Currie Cup First Division Player of the Year – six years after he was named as the Premier Division Player of the Year after his return to fitness in the Griffons’ impressive surge to the First Division title.
Flyhalf Burton Francis, of the Blue Bulls, was chosen as the Vodacom Cup Player of the Year, while Ricky Januarie’s score against the All Blacks in Dunedin was named as the SuperSport Try of the Year.
Meanwhile, in women’s rugby, Lorinda Brown of Eastern Province capped a fine year in which she played for the national Sevens and 15-a-side teams and was part of an inter-Provincial title-winning side by being named as Women’s Player of the Year.
All the SA Rugby Award winners:
SA Rugby Player of the Year:
(The outstanding rugby player of the 2008 South African season)
Winner: Jean de Villiers (Western Province)
Also nominated: Bismarck du Plessis, Adrian Jacobs, Ryan Kankowski, Beast Mtawarira (all Sharks).
Sasol Young Player of the Year:
(The outstanding young rugby player of 23 years or younger of the 2008 South African season- born in 1985 or later)
Winner: Robert Ebersohn (Free State Cheetahs)
Also nominated: Heinrich Brüssow (Free State Cheetahs), Ryan Kankowski, (Sharks), Nick Köster (Western Province), Beast Mtawarira (Sharks).
Players’ Player of the Year:
Winner: Jean de Villiers (Western Province)
Vodacom Team of the Year:
(The outstanding South African team or province of the 2008 season. This may be awarded for performances in a single tournament or for a province/franchises performances across a range of competitions)
Winner: Sharks (Super 14 team)
Also nominated: Platinum Leopards, Sharks (Absa Currie Cup team), Blue Bulls, Stormers.
Absa Coach of the Year:
(The outstanding coach of the 2008 South African season)
Winner: John Plumtree (Sharks, Absa Currie Cup)
Also nominated: Eugene Eloff (Golden Lions), Rassie Erasmus (Stormers), Frans Ludeke (Blue Bulls). Chaka Willemse (Leopards).
Vodacom Super 14 Player of the Year:
(The outstanding player of the 2008 Super 14 season)
Winner: Ryan Kankowski (Sharks)
Also nominated: Andries Bekker, Jean de Villiers, Conrad Jantjes (all Stormers), Rory Kockott (both Sharks).
Absa Currie Cup Premier Division Player of the Year:
(The outstanding player of the 2008 Absa Currie Cup Premier Division season)
Winner: Jean Deysel (Sharks)
Also nominated: Heinrich Brussow (Free State Cheetahs), Ryan Kankowski (both Sharks), Wynand Olivier (Blue Bulls), Stefan Terblanché (Sharks).
Absa Currie Cup First Division Player of the Year:
(The outstanding player of the 2008 Absa Currie Cup First Division season)
Winner: Kennedy Tsimba (Griffons).
Also nominated: Cecil Afrika, (Griffons), Clayton Durand (Leopards), Ashley Johnson (Griffons), Vuyo Zangqa (Leopards).
Vodacom Cup Player of the Year:
(The outstanding player of the 2008 Vodacom Cup season)
Winner: Burton Francis (Blue Bulls)
Also nominated: Isma-eel Dollie (Western Province), Rocco Jansen (Blue Bulls), Ashley Johnson and Wilton Pietersen (both Free State Cheetahs).
SuperSport Try of the Year:
Winner: Ricky Januarie (SA v New Zealand, Dunedin)
Sasol Sevens Player of the Year:
Sasol SA Under-20 Player of the Year:
Robert Ebersohn (Free State Cheetahs)
Women’s Player of the Year:
Lorinda Brown (Eastern Province)
SAA National Club Champs Player of the Tournament:
Lola Waka (Pukke)
Marriott Refereeing Achievement of the Year:
Coca-Cola Craven Week Player of the Tournament:
Sampie Mastriet (Boland)
Sasol Springbok Journalism Awards:
Sasol Springbok Journalist of the Year: Simnikiwe Xabanisa (Sunday Times).
Sasol Springbok Broadcasters of the Year: Dawie van Rensburg, Gert Roets (SuperSport for Springbok Saga)
Sasol Springbok Photographer of the Year: Craig Nieuwenhuizen (Rapport)