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Pienaar up for Euro award

Wed, 22 Jan 2014 08:57
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Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar tops the list of names forwarded for the European Cup Player of the Year awards.

Following the conclusion of the pool stages of the European Cup and the Challenge Cup, ERC has announced the 'longlist' for the awards.

The list includes 15 outstanding players from the 44 clubs competing in the 2013/14 tournaments.

Pienaar has been Man of the Match for Ulster on numerous occasions - including their victories over English giants Leicester Tigers and French outfit Montpellier in the past fortnight, which saw the unbeaten Irish province top the Euro Cup standings.

Ulster's prolific points scorer, Pienaar, who made the longlist both last season and in 2012, and Steffon Armitage of Toulon, who was also nominated last season, are included again along with Wilkinson.

The search to select a successor to the Toulon captain, Jonny Wilkinson, who guided the French club to an historic first European Cup success last season, was based on player performances during the pool stages of the European Cup and the Challenge Cup.

The Judging Panel will also have the option to consider additional players who make major contributions during the knock-out stages of both tournaments before announcing a five-man shortlist following the semi-finals with the overall winner named directly after the ERC European finals in Cardiff in May.

ERC European Player of the Year 2014 list: Steffon Armitage (Toulon), Miles Benjamin (Leicester Tigers), Sean Cronin (Leinster), Jean-Marc Doussain (Toulouse), Matt Giteau (Toulon), Alex Goode (Saracens), Cian Healy (Leinster), Fritz Lee (ASM Clermont Auvergne), George North (Northampton Saints), Paul O'Connell (Munster), Peter O'Mahony (Munster), Louis Picamoles (Toulouse), Ruan Pienaar (Ulster), Sitiveni Sivivatu (ASM Clermont Auvergne), Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon).

Pool stage form guide
 
Steffon Armitage – Sheer power and dynamism. The Toulon back row, who has featured at No 8 this season, won 13 turnovers in the European Cup pool stage - only Justin Tipuric of Ospreys with 15 has more.

Miles Benjamin – Back from injury, and making waves in Europe. The strong-running wing scored four tries in four games for Leicester Tigers in their push to the quarterfinals – only Chris Ashton (7) and Naipolioni Nalaga (5) have more – and made eight clean breaks.

Sean Cronin – Another dynamic contender with six clean breaks to his name for Leinster in the pool stage - no other European Cup hooker has made more than three this season. His success rate for line-out throwing is 86 percent.

Jean-Marc Doussain – The multi-talented Toulouse playmaker has a total of 15 defenders beaten which is the best for an out-half. He has also landed 13 of his 14 shots at goal.

Matt Giteau – The gifted Australian made 53 tackles for Toulon in the pool matches – the best for a centre. Giteau also scored two tries for last season's European Cup champions and came up with three assists.

Alex Goode – The in-form Saracens full-back, who scored a brilliant individual try against Connacht in Round 6, is the third highest metre-maker in the European Cup to date with 459 and also ranks third for defenders beaten with 21.

Cian Healy - Despite playing only 188 minutes in Europe this season, just five props have made more metres than the Leinster powerhouse who has carried for 77 metres. Healy has also beaten seven defenders, ranking him second among the European Cup props.

Fritz Lee – With 53 carries, 36 out of 38 tackles made, and two tries in his four matches for Clermont, the rugged New Zealand No 8 has been the find of the European season.

George North – His 434 metres gained in the pool stage puts him in the European Cup top-five metre makers. North's irresistible combination of pace, balance and power will be a massive asset to Northampton Saints as they pursue more European silverware in the Challenge Cup.

Paul O'Connell – Quite simply Munster's talisman during the two-time champions' drive to yet another European Cup quarterfinal. Without the inspirational second row, the Irish province's chances of winning a third European title are massively diminished.

Peter O'Mahony – If O'Connell is the brain, O'Mahony is the heart. A superb all-round back row, Munster's abrasive captain has scored two tries and made 35 out of 39 tackles during the pool stage.

Louis Picamoles – The powerhouse Toulouse No 8 leads the European Cup statistics in two categories this season with 84 carries and 27 defenders beaten. Picamoles' total of 300 metres gained is also the best of any forward in the tournament.

Ruan Pienaar – A class act in Ulster's 100 percent pool stage performance. The brilliant South African led the No 1 seeds to a Ravenhill quarterfinal with a total of 54 points including two tries.

Sitiveni Sivivatu – With the highest total of clean breaks (14) and the second-best individual performance in metres gained (510), the outstanding former New Zealand wing has once again been one of the players of the tournament.

Jonny Wilkinson - The European Cup's top points-scorer with 73 going into the knockout stage. Only three out-halves have made more tackles (37) than the evergreen Toulon captain.

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