All South Africa’s Player of the Year award winners for the past 32 years

David Skippers
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Legendary Springboks Schalk Burger, Eben Etzebeth, Bryan Habana, Fourie du Preez and Siya Kolisi.

After Springbok second-row Eben Etzebeth was crowned as SA Rugby’s Player of the Year for the second year in a row, we take a look at all the winners of the prestigious accolade over the years.

The award was introduced in 1992, the year the Springboks returned to the international game following a period of isolation due to apartheid.

The media are usually invited to help decide the winners by nominating their choices, while other stakeholders, as well as key staff members from SA Rugby, are also involved in the voting process in deciding the eventual winner.

Backline winners

Although backs are the players who score most of the points in rugby matches, surprisingly, backline players have only been crowned as South Africa‘s best player on 12 occasions.

The list of backline winners includes some of the greatest players who have ever donned the green and gold colours of the Springboks in the international arena.

That full list of backline players who have walked off with South Africa’s Player of the Year gong are as follows: Gavin Johnson, Chester Williams, André Joubert, Breyton Paulse, Ashwin Willemse, Bryan Habana, Fourie du Preez and Jean de Villiers.

Forward winners

With the Springboks basing their style of play predominantly on a dominant pack of forwards over the years, maybe it’s not so surprising that the forward players have won this award more often than their backline counterparts.

Eben Etzebeth wins prestigious accolade after another stellar season

With the award coming into existence more than three decades ago, various forwards have been named as South Africa’s best, and that has already happened on 20 occasions.

The full list of forwards who have taken the South Africa’s Player of the Year award home are as follows: Tiaan Strauss, Ruben Kruger, Os du Randt, Gary Teichmann, André Venter, André Vos, Joe van Niekerk, Schalk Burger, Gurthrö Steenkamp, Duane Vermeulen, Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Malcolm Marx, Siya Kolisi and Etzebeth.

Interestingly, only forwards have been crowned as South Africa’s Player of the Year for the past 10 years, since Vermeulen won the award in 2014 until Etzebeth’s recent win.

Multiple winners

Over the past 32 years there have been various winners of the prestigious accolade and its fair to say that being named as South Africa’s best rugby player just once is a special honour.

However, there are numerous Springboks who have played well consistently over a long period, and a few of them have been rewarded for their outstanding play with multiple SA Rugby Player of the Year titles.

Two players lead the pack with three awards: Habana (2005, 2007 and 2012) and Du Toit (2016, 2018 and 2019). Several others have received the accolade twice: Burger (2004 and 2011), Du Preez (2006 and 2009), Jean de Villiers (2008 and 2013), Duane Vermeulen (2014 and 2020) and Etzebeth (2022 and 2023).

Du Toit and Etzebeth are the only players who have won back-to-back SA Rugby Player of the Year awards.

Full list of SA Rugby Player of the Year winners

1992: Tiaan Strauss
1993: Gavin Johnson
1994: Chester Williams
1995: Ruben Kruger
1996: André Joubert
1997: Os du Randt
1998: Gary Teichmann
1999: André Venter
2000: Breyton Paulse
2001: André Vos
2002: Joe van Niekerk
2003: Ashwin Willemse
2004: Schalk Burger
2005: Bryan Habana
2006: Fourie du Preez
2007: Bryan Habana
2008: Jean de Villiers
2009: Fourie du Preez
2010: Gurthrö Steenkamp
2011: Schalk Burger
2012: Bryan Habana
2013: Jean de Villiers
2014: Duane Vermeulen
2015: Lood de Jager
2016: Pieter-Steph du Toit
2017: Malcolm Marx
2018: Pieter-Steph du Toit
2019: Pieter-Steph du Toit
2020: Duane Vermeulen
2021: Siya Kolisi
2022: Eben Etzebeth
2023: Eben Etzebeth

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