CAPE TOWN – He is perhaps a bit fortunate to beat his teammate Rieko Ioane, but nevertheless it was still an All Black in Beauden Barrett who was chosen as the World Player of the Year in Monaco on Sunday night.
Flyhalf Barrett claimed the best player gong for the second time in a row, thereby becoming just the second player to follow in the footsteps of his former captain Richie McCaw, who took the prize in 2009 and 2010.
But while Barrett is considered by many to be the best pound-for-pound rugby player on the planet at the moment, 20-year-old wing Ioane can consider himself unlucky to miss out.
The Blues powerhouse has set the sport alight in 2017 with a number of incredible performances, and he ran the Springboks to pieces in THAT 57-0 abomination in Albany.
His form was recognised with the Breakthrough Player of the Year title, but he deserved more than that.
Having scored on his debut off the bench against Italy last November, Ioane has added a further 10 tries in 12 Tests this year.
The manner in which he is able to create something out of nothing was perhaps best illustrated against the Springboks in Albany, when he smoked Malcolm Marx and handed-off Raymond Rhule to set up Brodie Retallick’s touchdown.
Ioane was at it again in Cardiff against Wales this past Saturday, when he produced a magical offload in the tackle to put Anton Lienert-Brown over.
He scored two of his own as well, and there were many such moments throughout the season.
But All Black general Barrett is the man who pulls the strings, and he also had a fine 2017.
Apart from Ioane, the other nominees were England duo Owen Farrell and Maro Itoje and Wallaby fullback Israel Folau.
“I’m very proud and surprised. I wanted to be better than last year, and I still think I have plenty more to go,” Barrett told the World Rugby website on Sunday night.
“The Lions series put us under the most pressure I have probably felt in a black jersey, and that’s a credit to the Lions. We learnt a lot from that series, particularly taking that into the World Cup.
“When I hang the boots up, that’s when I can look back and be really proud of this. I’ve got to thank my team. I am just one player amongst a great team.”
England boss Eddie Jones was also perhaps a surprise winner in Monaco as he beat All Black mentor Steve Hansen to the Coach of the Year award, despite the fact that his team didn’t face the Kiwis or the Springboks this year, and had lost to Ireland to lose out on the world record for consecutive victories.
New Zealand wing Portia Woodman was named the Women’s Player of the Year after the Black Ferns won a fifth Women’s Rugby World Cup title in August.
The only South African nominated on the night was Blitzbok star Rosco Specman, but he was also hard done by as US speedster Perry Baker was named as the World Sevens Player of the Year in a year where South Africa won the World Series title.
World Rugby Award Winners
Men’s Player of the Year: Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
Women’s Player of the Year: Portia Woodman (New Zealand)
Team of the Year: New Zealand Women’s 15s
Coach of the Year: Eddie Jones (England)
Breakthrough Player of the Year: Rieko Ioane (New Zealand)
Men’s Sevens Player of the Year: Perry Baker (USA)
Women’s Sevens Player of the Year: Michaela Blyde (New Zealand)
World Rugby Referee Award: Joy Neville (Ireland)
Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service – Marcel Martin (France)
Award for Character – Eduardo Oderigo (Argentina)
IRPA Special Merit Award – Richie McCaw (New Zealand) and Rachael Burford (England)
IRPA Try of the Year – Joaquin Tuculet (Argentina, v England)