Du Toit wins first prize, as Lions sweep boards
SOUTH AFRICAN RUGBY AWARDS: Pieter-Steph du Toit was voted the country's best player, while the Lions swept the boards at a glittering ceremony in Johannesburg on Monday.
The Lions won most of the major awards at the end of a year that saw them reach a Super Rugby Final for the first time in two decades.
However, top prize - Player of the Year - went to the Stormers' Springbok lock, Du Toit.
Du Toit became the second lock in two seasons to be named Player of the Year.
The 24-year-old Du Toit follows in the footsteps of Lodewyk de Jager, who walked away with the Award for the 2015 season.
It was a special occasion, with eight of the winners aged 25 or younger.
The average age of all the players who won awards, is 22.7 years.
The lock fought off strong challenges for the top award from his middle row partner Eben Etzebeth, and a trio of Boks from the Lions, Ruan Combrinck, Jaco Kriel and Warren Whiteley.
The Golden Lions however did do exceptionally well at the Awards, with a total of five awards heading back to Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
The winners from Johannesburg are Malcolm Marx (Young Player of the Year), Elton Jantjies (Super Rugby Player of the Tournament), Jacques Nel (Try of the Year) and Johan Ackermann (Coach of the Year) - while the 'Pride of Jozi', the Lions, was named Team of the Year after a superb showing in Super Rugby.
The prestigious Players' Player of the Year Award, presented by MyPlayers and voted for by the players themselves, went to Jean-Luc du Preez of the Sharks, who was on Saturday included in the Springbok tour squad for the Barbarians match in London early next month.
The winners in the three categories for national teams were Seabelo Senatla (Springbok Sevens Player of the Year), Curwin Bosch (Junior Springbok Player of the Year) and Marithy Pienaar (Springbok Women Player of the Year). The Referee Award went to Rasta Rasivhenge for a second successive year.
The winners in the various competitions were Jantjies, Retshegofaditswe Nche of the Free State Cheetahs (Currie Cup Player of the Year), Masixole Banda of the Border Bulldogs (First Division Player of the Year) and Western Province's Damian Willemse (Craven Week Player of the Year).
SA Rugby, for the first time this year, rewarded one of their member unions with a Best Development Award, which went to the Blue Bulls Rugby Union.
"To see so many young players step up and make their mark certainly bodes well for the future and I would like to congratulate all the winners, as well as those who were nominated," said Mark Alexander, President elect of SARU.
"Many of the players who won awards this year, will thrill us for many years to come and I'm certainly excited to see what the future holds for them and South African rugby in its entirety.
"It was a challenging year for South African rugby in many respects, but there were still a lot of wonderful achievements worth celebrating and all the players who won awards tonight, fully deserve to walk away with the spoils."
The award winners are (followed by nominees in alphabetical order):
SA Rugby Player of the Year:
Pieter-Steph du Toit
Nominees: Ruan Combrinck, Eben Etzebeth, Jaco Kriel, Warren Whiteley
Young Player of the Year:
Nominees: Curwin Bosch, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Seabelo Senatla, RG Snyman
Players' Player of the Year, presented by MyPlayers:
Jean-Luc du Preez (Sharks)
Team of the Year:
Lions (Super Rugby)
Nominees: Springbok Sevens, Free State Cheetahs (Currie Cup Premier Division)
Coach of the Year:
Johan Ackermann (Lions, Golden Lions)
Nominees: Brent Janse van Rensburg (Boland), Neil Powell (Springbok Sevens)
Junior Springbok Player of the Year:
Nominees: Manie Libbok, Jeremy Ward
SA Sevens Player of the Year:
Nominees: Kyle Brown, Rosko Specman
Super Rugby Player of Year:
Elton Jantjies (Lions)
Nominees: Ruan Combrinck (Lions), Warren Whiteley (Lions)
Currie Cup Player of the Year:
Ox Nche (Free State Cheetahs)
Nominees: Huw Jones (Western Province), Nico Lee (Free State Cheetahs)
First Division Player of the Year:
Masixole Banda (Border)
Nominees: Johan Deysel (Leopards), George Whitehead (Griffons)
Try of the Year:
Jacques Nel (Golden Lions v Western Province, Currie Cup)
Nominees: Garth April (Sharks v Sunwolves, Super Rugby); Ruan Combrinck (Lions v Crusaders, Super Rugby Qualifier); Rohan Janse van Rensburg (second try, Lions v Bulls, Super Rugby); Paul Jordaan (second try, Sharks v Southern Kings, Super Rugby); Sylvian Mahuza (Lions v Southern Kings, Super Rugby); Courtnall Skosan (Lions v Highlanders, Super Rugby semifinal and Lions v Crusaders, Super Rugby quarterfinal).
Best Development Programme Award:
Blue Bulls Rugby Union
Nominees: KwaZulu-Natal Rugby Union, Western Province Rugby Football Union
Craven Week Player of the Year: Damian Willemse (Western Province)
Referee Award: Rasta Rasivhenge
Springbok Women's Achiever Award: Marithy Pienaar