By Zayn Nabbi
After braving the "koppies" of Pretoria and "boot camp" Staaldraad, a chosen Springbok rugby warrior will be selected as the South African Player of the Year on Friday night.
The player will be crowned at Sandton Sun Convention Centre in a year in which the lucky (or not so lucky) fellow will disappear into the background of probes into racism and investigations on what really went on during the Boks' romp in the bush.
The favoured candidates are likely to be wing Ashwin Willemse and No 8 Juan Smith. Both youngsters will probably be level pegging for the top spot.
Th 2002, flank Joe van Niekerk, has been nominated, although he will probably fall out of contention because he was injured for most of the Springbok calendar.
Lock Bakkies Botha's inclusion in the player of the year category surely proves that the panellists were scraping the barrel to find candidates.
As expected, the Bulls have dominated the nominations in all of the categories because of their performances during the Super 12 and their Currie Cup-winning campaign.
Flyhalf Derick Hougaard did not make the final cut in any category, while it is mind-boggling how flank Schalk Burger jnr makes the shortlist for most promising player when he received several yellow cards and was sent off while captaining the South Africa under-21 team at the IRB tournament in England.
It was Luke Watson who outplayed Richie McCaw during the Super 12 and he was given the man of the match award when the Sharks played Canterbury in Christchurch.
Watson was undoubtedly the country's top rookie loose-forward, yet he has not been nominated for any category.
The rest of the nominees and the categories are: Player of the Year: Richard Bands (Bulls), Bakkies Botha (Bulls), Juan Smith (Cheetahs), Joe van Niekerk (Lions) and Ashwin Willemse (Lions). Most Promising Player of the Year: Schalk Burger (WP), Jacque Cronje (Bulls), Fourie du Preez (Bulls), John Mametsa ( Bulls) and Ashwin Willemse (Lions). Super 12 Player of the Tournament: Richard Bands (Bulls), Bakkies Botha (Bulls), Louis Koen (Bulls), Victor Matfield (Bulls) and Jaco van der Westhuyzen (Bulls). Currie Cup Player of the Tournament: Gary Botha (Bulls), Fourie du Preez (Bulls), Anton Leonard (Bulls), John Mametsa (Bulls) and John Daniels (Lions).
The panel includes journalists JJ Harmse (Rapport), Clinton van der Berg (Sunday Times), Lesiba Langa (City Press), Hendrik Cronje (Volksblad) and Zayn Nabbi (Daily News), and radio and TV personalities David O'Sullivan (SABC Rugga Show and 702) and Tony Ndoro (SuperSport and 5fm).
Meanwhile, Springbok wing Stefan Terblanche has become the second Sharks backline player to cut his losses in South Africa to pursue his career in Wales.
Terblanche will join the Neath-Swansea Ospreys.
"I've always said that I wanted to go overseas and play two seasons, and now I can," said Terblanche.
"You know, I'm just 28 and there's a lot of rugby left in me."
He will join former Sharks team-mate Andre Snyman, who plays for the Leeds Tykes.