Tough choice for SA player of the year

2009-10-30 00:00

THE SA Rugby Player of the Year banquet takes place in Midrand on Monday evening and, in spite of Western Province optimism, the main awards will go to Blue Bulls and Free State players involved in tomorrow’s Currie Cup final.

The SA Rugby Player of the Year award will be tightly contested with five outstanding nominations in Fourie du Preez, Morne Steyn, Victor Matfield, John Smit and Heinrich Brussow.

The indications are that the choice will lie between the Blue Bulls halfbacks, Du Preez and Steyn, and it could be a tight race.

The composed scrumhalf Du Preez is the strong favourite to take the International Rugby Board’s Player of the Year award for his compelling form for the Bulls in the Super 14 and then for the triumphant Springboks against the British Lions and in the Tri-Nations. But Steyn, a prodigious kicker and a consistent match-winner with the boot at Super 14, Test and Currie Cup level, could well pip him to the domestic award.

Smit, for his astute leadership of the Springboks and the influential role he played under massive pressure off the field, would be a shoo-in for captain of the year.

The 23-year-old Free State and Bok flank Brussow, in his first season in international rugby, is the obvious choice as Young Player of the Year.

Coach of the Year should go to Peter de Villiers, who took the Springboks to a series win over the British Lions and a Tri-Nations triumph in spite of several bizarre moments in between and the unorthodox use of his replacement bench. In any other year, the sensible Bok Sevens coach Paul Treu, who took South Africa to the world series title, would have been an obvious choice.

What is all rather cosy is how the Currie Cup nominations are weighted in favour of Western Province, who finished second to the Sharks on the final log and then failed to reach the final.

They are not only nominated for Team of the Year, but also for Coach of the Year (Allister Coetzee), while three of the five Currie Cup Player of the Year finalists are from Western Province (Juan de Jongh, Joe Pietersen and Luke Watson). The other two are Sarel Pretorius (Griquas) and Stefan Terblanche (Sharks) while not one player involved in tomorrow’s Currie Cup final between the Blue Bulls and Free State has been nominated.

NOMINATIONS FOR MAIN AWARDS:

Player of the Year: Heinrich Brussow, Fourie du Preez, Victor Matfield, John Smit, Morné Steyn

Young Player of the Year: Heinrich Brussow, Juan de Jongh, Francois Hougaard, Lionel Mapoe, Frans Steyn

Team of the Year: Griquas, Springboks, Springbok Sevens, Bulls, Western Province

Coach of the Year: Allister Coetzee (WP), Peter de Villiers (Springboks), Frans Ludeke (Bulls), Dawie Theron (Griquas), Paul Treu (Springbok Sevens)

Currie Cup Player of the Year: Juan de Jongh (WP), Joe Pietersen (WP), Sarel Pretorius (Griquas), Stefan Terblanche (Sharks), Luke Watson (Western Province)

2009 Lions Series Test Player of the Year: Heinrich Brussow, Fourie du Preez, Tendai Mtawarira, John Smit, Morné Steyn

Super 14 Player of the Year: Heinrich Brussow (Cheetahs), Fourie du Preez (Bulls), Wynand Olivier (Bulls), Pierre Spies (Bulls), Morné Steyn (Bulls)

Try of the Year: Fourie du Preez –Super 14 final, Bulls vs Chiefs; Jaque Fourie (second Test in 2009 Lions series); Bryan Habana (Second Test in Lions series); Fabian Juries (Currie Cup, Cheetahs vs Bulls); John Smit (first Test in Lions series)

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