Cape Town - The Springboks have been nominated in the Team of the Year category at the 2020 Laureus World Sports Awards to be held in Berlin next month.
The news was confirmed on Wednesday as the lists of final nominations were revealed by Laureus.
The Boks, who won the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, will be up against tough competition from Jürgen Klopp’s Champions League-winning Liverpool side, the USA women's football team who won the women’s World Cup, six-time Formula One world champions Mercedes-AMG Petronas, the first Canadian team to win the NBA Championship, the Toronto Raptors, and two-time FIBA World Cup winners, Spain's men’s basketball team.
The Springboks won the category at the 2008 Laureus Awards having triumphed at the 2007 World Cup the year prior.
"You have to remember when we went into the 2019 Rugby World Cup we were only ranked fifth or sixth, but as the competition proceeded we really got together as a team and we realised how we could unite the country. It became a bigger cause than just winning a competition. To be nominated for this award is unbelievable," hooker Schalk Brits said of the honour.
Laureus Academy chairperson and All Blacks legend, Sean Fitzpatrick, also had kind word for the Boks.
"One could not have predicted the immense impact that South Africa’s win of the Rugby World Cup had around the world. With their victory inspiring the hearts of so many, uniting a multitude of communities, we see once again the exceptionally unique power of sport to unite," he said.
"It seems only fitting that the Laureus theme for the 2020 awards ceremony is 'Sport Unites Us'.
"If I wanted to identify a figure that symbolises the unity that sport has brought about in 2019, Siya Kolisi comes straight to mind.
"I greatly admire the way Kolisi led his team and how he has transcended his leadership role within rugby to become a leader and a role model for his entire country. I am not alone in applauding the whole team for the passion, determination and commitment they have shown. They are truly deserving of this nomination for the Laureus Team of the Year Award."
Among the standouts in other categories, world No 1 tennis star Rafael Nadal is in contention for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award alongside six-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton, six-time world MotoGP champion Marc Márquez and six-time FIFA World Footballer of the Year Lionel Messi. Also nominated are Eliud Kipchoge, the first athlete to run a marathon in under two hours and golf legend Tiger Woods, who won his 15th major at the Masters.
In the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year category, gymnast Simone Biles, bidding for her third Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award, is nominated alongside track and field stars Allyson Felix and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and FIFA Women’s World Cup Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner, Megan Rapinoe. Completing the nominations are Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka and American skiing star Mikaela Shiffrin.
At 15, Coco Gauff is the youngest nominated athletes for the 2020 Laureus Awards and is joined in the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year category by Canadian tennis player Bianca Andreescu, 19, the first woman to win the US Open on her debut, and Colombia’s first ever Tour de France winner, 22-year-old Egan Bernal.
Six of the highest achieving para-athletes make up the Nominees for the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award, which includes Cuba’s Omara Durand, the world’s fastest female Paralympian in 2019, and US skier and cyclist Oksana Masters, born with deformities caused by radiation from Chernobyl.
In the Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year category, world surfing champions Italo Ferreira and Carissa Moore are joined by 2019 Action Sportsperson winner and snowboarding world champion Chloe Kim and 11-year-old Brazilian skateboarder Rayssa Leal, the youngest Nominee for the 2020 Laureus Awards. Also in contention for the Action Award are US skateboarding world champion Nyjah Huston and Canadian snowboarding star and slopestyle X-Games gold medallist Mark McMorris.