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South Africa

Player of the Year nominee: Etzebeth

28th November 2013 11:30


Eben Etzebeth

Eben Etzebeth: World's best player?

We asked five Planet Rugby scribes to name their 2013 Player of the Year...and got five different answers. David Skippers argues the case for Eben Etzebeth.

Eben Etzebeth's nomination for the IRB World Player of the Year Award is a just reward for his fine contribution to the Springbok cause in 2013.

As the youngest of the five nominees, many enthusiasts will argue that it's still too early for the Stormers stalwart to win this prestigious award. I beg to differ, however, and believe he deserves to win it now, as the 22-year-old has consistently delivered top class performances for South Africa in 2013 while playing with a maturity beyond his years.

Etzebeth deserves credit for carrying on where he left off in 2012 after making his Test debut as a 20-year-old against England in Durban last year. Unlike so many other players, who impress when they burst onto the scene, he has not suffered from "second season syndrome" and kicked on to establish himself as the world's premier second-row.

During the Boks' 2013 campaign he has shone in the role as the two-time world champions' enforcer and his intimidating presence at the coalface of their forward effort surely makes him one of the first names on coach Heyneke Meyer's teamsheet.

Just think about it. How many times can you remember Etzebeth playing poorly for his country? Well, I can't think of a single Test where he has been totally dominated by a direct opponent.

South Africa pride themselves on doing well in the forward exchanges and he has certainly thrived in this area and never takes a backward step to anyone. Etzebeth is a fearsome ball-carrier, throws himself into tackles, cleans out rucks with great ferocity and is a major force at the line-outs.

These attributes lay the foundation for his loose forwards and backs to play off and although it's a combined effort, alongside his fellow tight forwards, it would be great if the IRB could acknowledge the guys who do the hard graft which allows their more flashier team-mates to shine.

Former Ireland captain and hooker Keith Wood was the first man to win the World Player of the Year Award - when it was introduced in 2001 - but that was also the last time that a tight forward has been rewarded with the game's top individual prize.

I think it's time for the IRB to honour the game's "donkeys" again by giving the award to Etzebeth this year.

By David Skippers

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