It's that time of the year again when we reward those in rugby kind enough to have provided entertainment in 2009, wittingly or not!
It's that time again when we reward all those in rugby kind enough to have provided entertainment in 2009, wittingly or not!
There was no formal dinner party or other notable ceremony of note for these gongs, but that should not take away the importance of who was carving – or not – their moment in the virtual spotlight.
So arise, rugby characters of 2009 and come and collect the bouquets. And the brickbats…
Try of the year: Cedric Heymans for his solo effort against New Zealand in the second Test in Wellington. It took great skill, great pace and a few great steps to pull it off. But most of all it took real stones to take on the All Blacks defence – alone – and emerge on the other side of the whitewash.
Team of the Year: The Bulls. Home the core of the Springbok team, Loftus Versfeld now also houses the Super 14 and Currie Cup trophies. Frans Ludeke and his blue armada were near-unstoppable.
Players of the year: Once again war raged in Planet Rugby offices all over the globe as two clear factions were formed – those form the South supporting Fourie du Preez, and those from the North backing Brian O'Driscoll. We tried debating. We tried bribing. We tried threats of grievous bodily harm, but no one would budge. So, we have no choice but to split the award this year:
Northern Hemisphere Player of the Year: Heineken Cup, Six Nations and Grand Slam champion and Ireland's hero, Brian O'Driscoll.
Southern Hemisphere Player of the Year: A key element in the Super 14, Currie Cup, Tri-Nations and Lions Series victories for the Bulls and Springboks, Fourie du Preez is set to become one a the greatest scrum-halves of all time.
Newbie of the year: South Africa unearthed a new breed of openside in 2009. With his squat frame and powerful midsection, Heinrich BrussÃ¶w was a thorn in the side of all he faced and brought back the argument that teams still require 'a fetcher'. The 23-year-old was superb at the breakdown in Cheetahs and Springbok colours and we look forward to more battles with David Pocock and Richie McCaw.
Coach of the year: There were a number of contenders here and Lienster's Michael Cheika deserves a mention. However, South Africa's success in the World Sevens Series was in no small part thanks to the ultra-professional approach of their boss, Paul Treu. Under Treu's guidance the Sevens Boks have set a new benchmark for professionalism.
Press-friendly coach of the year: While Peter de Villiers sometimes struggles to hide his contempt for some members of the press, and Graham Henry has perfected his grumpy headmaster routine, Robbie Deans is always friendly, approachable, polite and can always to counted on to tell it how it is.
The 'Geriatrix After Magic Potion' Award for exceptional athleticism at an advanced age: Simon Shaw for his British & Irish Lions Test debut three months short of his 36th birthday
The Animal of 2009: A Bull – after the men from Pretoria stampeded to a double in the shape of Super 14 and Currie Cup silverware
The Chokers of 2009: Australia for blowing several leads against the All Blacks after half-time as well as letting Ireland off the hook and then Scotland. But not Wales.
Underachievers of the Decade: The 2000s have been a bad one for Gloucester and they have topped it all off with just one away victory in 2009. Roll on the 10s!
The 'Customs and Excise' Award for a successful import: Tendai Mtawarira has made quite a name for himself since moving from Zimbabwe to South Africa with his name now chanted in all corners of the globe – despite the very best efforts of the SA Government to prevent him from being a crucial part of their national team.
The 'Kick a Man When He's Down' Award: Poor old Ronan O'Gara had just been trampled over by Pierre Spies, was then bounced off by Jaque Fourie while his head was still spinning and finally was asked to field a high ball in the final minute of a pivotal Test with the world on tenterhooks. The rest is now a painful chapter in the history of the Lions.
The 'Happy Heckler' Award for unnerving wind-ups: “You've got beautiful blue eyes” – Bakkies Botha casts doubt in the mind of Mike Phillips.
The 'Wyatt Earp Special' Movember Award of 2009: In a tight finish Bryan Habana beats off Australian duo Richard Graham and a strange one from Adam Ashley-Cooper to lift our horseshoe-shaped trophy.
The 'Plastic Surgeon's Dream' Award for raising eyebrows almost permanently: The IRB's decision to overlook a Heineken Cup and Grand Slam-winning Brian O'Driscoll and Super 14, Currie Cup, Lions Series and Tri-Nations-winning Fourie du Preez for IRB Player of the Year. No offence Richie but… come on!
The 'George Dubya Bush' Award for a nonsensical quote: “Rugby is a contact sport and so is dancing. If that's the case, why don't we go to the nearest ballet shop, get some nice tutus and get some great dancing going on? No eye-gouging, no tackling, no nothing. Then enjoy! There are no collisions in ballet, but in this game there will be collisions” – Guess who?
The 'Big Hug' Award in grateful thanks from the rugby world: International Olympic Committee for putting Rugby Sevens in the Olympics from 2016.
The 'NBC Drama Special' Award for overly-dramatic storylines: Joint winners are Bath and Harlequins for the goings on down Argyle Street and Langhorn Drive. We hear there may be a spin-off in Australia with some very tall bloke. Close behind was the exchange of kicks in the final minutes of Ireland's Grand Slam win.
Special Award from the German Fire Service for a highly-efficient and organised evacuation and exit from a completely harmless situation: London Wasps at Sale. Nobody got hurt, everybody got pizza and it cost the general public quite a lot of money.
The 'That's the Last Time I Send You A Christmas Card' Award for a silly pass: Jean de Villiers adding to Frans Steyn's quick line-out blunder against New Zealand
The 'One I'll Always Watch When The Missus Is Out' Award: The Chiefs' 63-34 beating of the Blues in the Super 14. Fourteen, yes fourteen tries in all at Waikato Stadium.
The 'Michael Jackson' Award for dancing feet: Lelia Masaga for this Waikato shuffle that is worth replaying over and over again
The 'Phoenix' Award for a remarkable last gasp recovery: Cardiff Blues coming from 12-26 down in the 74th minute against Leicester in the Heineken Cup to draw level by the 76th. Then came the pantomime of penalties!
The 'Dire Straits Money for Nothing' Award: Dan Carter