DURBAN - Coenie Oosthuizen, the battle-scarred Springbok prop, was the big winner at the Sharks’ Player of the Year awards function on Thursday night, while there was also recognition for other standout players of the season in Ruan Botha, Lukhanyo Am, Jean-Luc du Preez and S’bu Nkosi.
Oosthuizen enjoyed an excellent Super Rugby season in the front row for the Sharks and his grinning, never-say-die attitude made him popular with teammates and fans alike.
The 28-year-old’s industrious work with ball in hand and appetite for putting in big hits on defence in Super Rugby earned him six more caps for the Springboks before he broke his arm in the Rugby Championship Test against Australia in Perth in September. Oosthuizen has recovered from the injury and is back in the Springbok squad for the tour to Europe.
The awards ceremony, held at the Sibaya Casino north of Durban, closed a season of mixed fortunes for a Sharks team that battled to the quarter-finals of Super Rugby before having a curious Currie Cup. The Durbanites finished top of the log after a 10-match unbeaten run but in the end were twice shocked by Western Province, first in the last pool game and then dramatically in the final at Kings Park.
Super Rugby confirmed the pedigree of outside centre Am, who was consistently good for the Sharks. He showed he can break the line, turnover ball like a flank and make his tackles.
Am’s performances were rewarded with a call-up to the Bok squad but he never got to play in the June Tests because of serious injury incurred in the Super Rugby quarter-final against the Lions.
Am is the deserved winner of the Sharks’ Super Rugby Player of the Year award. Like Oosthuizen, Am is fully recovered and back with the Boks.
Lock Botha was a fiery performer for the Sharks in Super Rugby and coach Robert du Preez had no hesitation in making him captain for the Currie Cup. Botha led from the front and there were no surprises when he walked away with the Currie Cup Player of the Year award last night. It has been a special week for Botha, who on Tuesday was called up to the Bok squad.
The Players’ Player of the Year award is probably the best recognition a player can receive because it comes from his teammates, and this year the Sharks players voted for rugged flanker Du Preez.
Sharks supporters have also had their say and Am was presented with his second award of the evening as the fans' choice as Player of the Year.
Veteran Michael Claassens was a popular winner of the Ambassador Award, given to a player who enjoys respect and represents team work and pride in the jersey.
Explosive young wing S’bu Nkosi was a worthy winner of the Breakthrough Performer of the Year.
Sharks’ Awards Winners:
Under-19 Player of the Season: Jacques Ackermann
Under-21 Player of the Season: Courtney Winnaar
Sharks XV Player of the Season: Hyron Andrews
Currie Cup Player of the Season: Ruan Botha
Ambassador Award: Michael Claassens
Breakthrough Performer of the Year: Sbusiso Nkosi
Fans’ Player of the Year: Lukhanyo Am
Player’s Player of the Year: Jean-Luc du Preez
Player of the Year: Coenie Oosthuizen