Springbok captain Jean de Villiers was on Wednesday named South African Rugby Player of the Year, while Eben Etzebeth was crowned the Young Player of the Year for 2013 for the second successive season at a glittering ceremony at Gold Reef City in Johannesburg.
De Villiers led the Springboks to 10 wins in 12 Tests in 2013 and scored five tries in the process, following an outstanding Super Rugby campaign for the Stormers. His first-class record now stands at 254 matches with 91 tries scored.
The blond-haired Springbok captain also walked away with the spoils in 2008. He becomes only the sixth player to win the title more than once, following in the footsteps of Naas Botha, who won it four times; Bryan Habana, who won it three times; and Uli Schmidt, Fourie du Preez and Schalk Burger, who all won it twice.
De Villiers, who also received the award for Try of the Year after rounding off a superb team effort for the Springboks against Wales in Cardiff, beat off strong competition for the top award in South African rugby from fellow nominees Bismarck du Plessis, Etzebeth, Willie le Roux and Duane Vermeulen.
The 22-year-old Etzebeth became the first player to walk away with back-to-back awards for the Young Player of the Year, which confirmed his status as one of the best up-and-coming players in world rugby after yet another superb season at lock for the Springboks and the Stormers.
The awards to De Villiers and Etzebeth were two of the highlights of the evening, during which accolades in 14 other categories were awarded.
The Mpumalanga Rugby Union left with three awards following a highly successful 2013 season for the side from Nelspruit. Jimmy Stonehouse was the Coach of the Year for his efforts with the Pumas and the SA President’s XV. Rosko Specman was named Currie Cup First Division Player of the Year.
The Pumas were the Team of the Year after winning the Currie Cup First Division and finishing runners-up in the Vodacom Cup.
Among the three other national teams, Cornal Hendricks (SA Sevens Player of the Year), Cheslin Kolbe (SA Under-20 Player of the Year) and Zenay Jordaan (Women’s Achiever of the Year) were rewarded for their excellent form last season.
The other individual awards in the three remaining professional competitions went to Adriaan Strauss, who captained the Cheetahs to their first-ever playoff appearance in Super Rugby, Scarra Ntubeni (Western Province – Currie Cup Premier Division Player of the Year) and Fred Zeilinga (Sharks XV – Vodacom Cup Player of the Year).
Le Roux’s exploits for the Cheetahs and with the Springboks saw him voted Players’ Player of the Year – an award voted for by the players themselves.
Jonathan Kaplan, the most experienced Test referee in the world who retired at the end of last season, was honoured for his contribution to the game spanning two decades, while he also received the Referee Award for consistently performing well under pressure in 2013. - Sapa