He stands out like a colossus, not in his stature which epitomises the build of a more cunning being, but rather it's his presence which strikes fear in the opposition while bringing about much-needed energy and hope for his teammates.

To the naked eye especially to one ignorant to the finer detail and one that is uneducated to the game of rugby, Fourie du Preez might look like an ordinary player.

However, last night at a glittering Blue Bulls Awards function held at Utopia Place in Lynnwood, Du Preez was deservedly named the Bulls and Blue Bulls player of the year.

The road to this award may not have been easy, it had its fair share of drama, disappointments and joys but in the end Du Preez's unrelenting dog fight and knack of facing a challenge head on, probably earned him this award.

Du Preez captained the Bulls through a testing Super 14 campaign and even though the Bulls as defending champions failed to make the play-offs, it was a season of ups and downs.

Du Preez admitted that the 2008 Super 14 season was one of his worst rugby memories for him as the Bulls stared the wooden spoon in the face and the Loftus faithful walked out on them twice.

But the Bulls finished off the Super 14 in a flurry with Wikus van Heerden at the helm and Du Preez injured.

Du Preez's last performances in the Super 14 before breaking his hand in the final league match against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein showed shades of the Du Preez of old and within weeks he was back in the Springbok fold.

With a few Currie Cup matches under his belt, Du Preez staged a dramatic comeback to the Bok team and eventually to the Blue Bulls team helping them get to the Currie Cup final which the Blue Bulls unfortunately lost to the Sharks in Durban.

Du Preez, though, had to fend off some strong arguments from the likes of Deon Stegmann, Morné Steyn and Wynand Olivier.

Stegmann did not walk away empty handed.

The young loose forward was decorated with the Bulls Super 14 forward of the year prize, while Steyn walked away with the Bulls Super 14 backline player of the year award.

In the Currie Cup, Springbok prop Gurthro Steenkamp did well to shake off the disappointment of being dropped from the national team by putting in bone-crushing and victory inspiring displays that kept the Blue Bulls ahead of most teams in the Currie Cup.

Wynand Olivier, also dropped from the national team, played the best rugby of his life as he publicly confessed that he had new-found energy and passion for the game of rugby at the same time he sent out a strong message to Bok coach Peter de Villiers that he still can contribute immensely to the Bok cause in the future.

Blue Bulls under-21 captain Gerrit-Jan van Velze was deservedly handed the Bulls junior player of the year award with the bullocking Ockert Kruger named junior forward of the year. Flyhalf and SA Rugby's Vodacom Cup player of the tournament, Burton Francis, crowned off a memorable 2008 season which included kicking the Blue Bulls to victory in the Vodacom Cup final, making his Super 14 and Currie Cup debuts and being part of the Bulls Currie Cup final losing team by being named the junior backline player of the year.


Bulls and Blue Bulls player of the year:

Fourie du Preez.

Super 14 forward player of the year:

Deon Stegmann.

Super 14 backline player of the year:

Morné Steyn.

Currie Cup forward player of the year:

Gurthro Steenkamp.

Currie Cup backline player of the year:

Wynand Olivier.

Junior player of the year:

Gerrit-Jan van Velze.

Junior forward player of the year:

Ockert Kruger.

Junior backline player of the year:

Burton Francis.

Media award: John Mametsa.