Eben Etzebeth wins prestigious accolade after another stellar season

David Skippers
Eben Etzebeth SA RWC 2023 final - Alamy.jpg

Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth was crowned SA Rugby's Player of the Year for 2023.

Legendary Springbok second-row Eben Etzebeth became only the second player to win the SA Rugby Player of the Year award for the second successive year.

His splendid efforts were recognised at the SA Rugby Awards 2023 which was held at a glittering ceremony in Johannesburg on Thursday evening.

Springbok flyer Canan Moodie also did the double by winning the Young Player of the Year award, while Libbie Janse van Rensburg dominated the women’s categories by being named Springbok Women and Provincial Player of the Year for 2023.

Etzebeth, who made his international debut for the Springboks in 2012 and was nominated for World Player of the Year last year, won the prestigious award for a second successive time after displaying consistently high levels of performances in the green and gold as the Springboks lifted the Webb Ellis Cup for a second time in a row.

Tough competition

The other finalists were Pieter-Steph du Toit – the first player to win back-to-back awards in 2018 and 2019 – as well as Bok skipper Siya Kolisi, Frans Malherbe and Damian Willemse.

Janse van Rensburg, who is the leading points-scorer in the history of South African rugby, featured for the Bok Women in both 15s and sevens last year, and was at the forefront of the Bulls Daisies’ challenge to win the Women’s Premier Division.

The other nominees were former winners Nadine Roos (2022), Aseza Hele (2019), and Babalwa Latsha (2017), as well as Rights Mkhari, who is also an international in 15s and sevens rugby.

Moodie was voted as the Young Player of the Year for back-to-back seasons after another year of standout performances for South Africa and the Bulls, beating out fellow Boks in Jaden Hendrikse and Evan Roos, as well as Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu and Ruan Venter.

Following their World Cup win in France, Jacques Nienaber and the Springboks won the awards for Coach and Team of the Year, while Ricardo Duartee was named Springbok Men’s Sevens Player of the Year, and Corne Beets the Junior Springbok Player of the Year.

In a new category, voted for by Springbok fans on social media, Cheslin Kolbe won the SuperSport Fans’ Moment of the Year award for his charge-down of a Thomas Ramos conversion in the World Cup quarter-final triumph over Les Bleus in Paris.

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Manie Libbok (Stormers – Vodacom URC Fans’ Player of the Season), Ruan Pienaar (Cheetahs – Currie Cup Premier Division Player of the Year) and Cameron Hufke (Boland Kavaliers – Currie Cup First Division Player of the Year) also took home awards for their performances at franchise and provincial level.

The award for Associate Member of the Year was re-introduced in 2023 and the SA Deaf Rugby Association (SADRA) were crowned winners in that category. South Africa finished fourth in the World Deaf Rugby Championship in Argentina and after an internal audit, SADRA was judged to be well-governed and growing in South Africa.

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander congratulated all the winners after a memorable 2023 season.

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

Deserved winner

“Eben was at the front of the Springboks’ charge to their second Rugby World Cup title, backed up by the rest of the squad, coaches and management, all of whom deserve recognition for a remarkable season for South African rugby,” he said.

“The 2023-season will be ingrained in our memories for decades to come, with the Springboks setting the tone and doing so much for nation building and social cohesion in South Africa, but all of our national teams did well, and we are proud of all the winners.

“It was especially heart-warming to see the big strides made by women’s rugby in the last couple of years and Libbie’s performances for the Springbok Women, as they finished third in WXV 2 and were crowned champions of Africa yet again, and in the colours of the Bulls Daises, as well as that of all the other nominees representing our country across the world, were testament to the great work done in women’s rugby.

“To Jacques Nienaber, Canan Moodie and the Springboks for their awards, congratulations. It’s well deserved, and we are immensely proud of what you achieved last year. The same goes for Ricardo Duarttee and Corne Beets, as well as all the nominees in these various categories.

“Cheslin Kolbe’s charge-down of the conversion in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final underlined the commitment and work-rate we saw from the Boks in France, and the fans agreed.

“On franchise and provincial level in the Vodacom URC and Currie Cup, Manie Libbok, Ruan Pienaar and Cameron Hufke were rewarded for their brilliant form and rightly so, while Jaco Peyper capped off a magnificent career as match official by deservedly winning the OUTsurance Referee of the Year award, and we are excited to see what he will bring to the table in his new role with the Springboks.”

2023 SA Rugby Awards winners

SA Rugby Men’s Player of the Year: Eben Etzebeth
Finalists: Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi, Frans Malherbe, Damian Willemse

Springbok Women’s Player of the Year: Libbie Janse van Rensburg
Finalists: Aseza Hele, Babalwa Latsha, Rights Mkhari, Nadine Roos

SA Rugby Young Player of the Year: Canan Moodie (Springbok and Bulls)
Finalists: Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (Stormers), Jaden Hendrikse (Springboks and Sharks), Evan Roos (Springboks and Stormers), Ruan Venter (Lions)

Springbok Sevens Men’s Player of the Year: Ricardo Duarttee
Finalists: Christie Grobbelaar, Shilton van Wyk

Junior Springbok Player of the Year: Corne Beets
Finalists: Paul de Villiers, Damian Markus

Team of the Year: Springboks
Finalists: Cheetahs, Stormers

Coach of the Year: Jacques Nienaber (Springboks)
Finalists: Hawies Fourie (Cheetahs), John Dobson (Stormers)

Currie Cup Premier Division Player of the Year: Ruan Pienaar (Cheetahs)
Finalists: Tinus de Beer (Pumas), Devon Williams (Pumas)

Currie Cup First Division Player of the Year: Cameron Hufke (Boland Kavaliers)
Finalists: Keagan Fortune (Valke), Darian Hock (Boland Kavaliers)

SuperSport Fans’ Moment of the Year: Cheslin Kolbe
Finalists: Bongi Mbonambi, Manie Libbok, Damian Willemse

Provincial Women’s Player of the Year: Libbie Janse van Rensburg (Bulls Daisies)

Referee of the Year: Jaco Peyper

United Rugby Championship Fans’ Player of the Season (announced last year): Manie Libbok (Stormers)

SA Rugby Associate Member of the Year: SA Deaf Rugby Association

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