Eben Etzebeth goes Bok to Bok as the king of SA rugby

Eben Etzebeth was massive in defence of the Webb Ellis Cup in France, and was the sole Springbok to be honoured by World Rugby last year when he was selected in their Dream XV. Photo: AFP

Eben Etzebeth was massive in defence of the Webb Ellis Cup in France, and was the sole Springbok to be honoured by World Rugby last year when he was selected in their Dream XV. Photo: AFP

Published Mar 14, 2024

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Cheslin Kolbe’s heroic charge-down of Frenchman Thomas Ramos’ attempted conversion during the Springboks’ nerve-racking World Cup quarter-final victory last year, was on Thursday night honoured at the SA Rugby Awards as the fans’ moment of the year.

In a decisive moment of the match and the overall cup campaign, Kolbe launched himself from the tryline to brilliantly deny Ramos and France an extra two points in the Boks’ eventual 29-28 victory in Paris.

Meanwhile, in the most prestigious category of the night, Eben Etzebeth – to the the surprise of arguably no one – walked away with the 2023 SA Rugby men’s player of the year award, becoming only the second player to win the honour back-to-back after Pieter-Steph du Toit did so in 2018 and 2019.

Etzebeth had a stellar 2023 with the Boks and was arguably one of the best players in the world, if not the best lock on the planet.

The 32-year-old was massive in defence of the Webb Ellis Cup in France, and was the sole South African to be honoured by World Rugby last year when he was selected in their Dream XV of the year.

“Eben was at the front of the Springboks’ charge to their second Rugby World Cup title,” said SA Rugby president Mark Alexander via a statement on Thursday night, “and backed up by the rest of the squad, coaches and management, all of whom deserve recognition for a remarkable season for South African rugby.

“The 2023 season will be ingrained in our memories for decades to come, with the Springboks setting the tone and doing so much for nation-building and social cohesion in South Africa.

“But all of our national teams did well, and we are proud of all the winners.”

Bok coach Jacques Nienaber also received the award as coach of the year, while Etzebeth’s 21-year-old teammate, Canan Moodie, was awarded the young player of the year honour.

There were also no surprises in the team of the year category, with the Springboks collecting the honour ahead of the Cheetahs and Stormers.

South Africa’s highest international points-scorer in the women’s game, flyhalf Libbie Janse van Rensburg, received two awards for her contribution to the continued development of the women’s game last year, winning the SA Rugby women’s player and provincial women’s player of the year award.

The evergreen Ruan Pienaar, who turned 40 last Sunday, was honoured with the Currie Cup premier division player of the year award after leading the Cheetahs to their seventh title in that tournament last year.

SA Rugby Awards Winners

Men’s Player of the Year: Eben Etzebeth

Women’s Player of the Year: Libbie Janse van Rensburg

Young Player: Canan Moodie (Springboks, Bulls)

Men’s Springbok Sevens: Ricardo Duarttee

Junior Springboks: Corne Beets

Team: Springboks

Coach: Jacques Nienaber (Springboks)

Currie Cup Premier Division: Ruan Pienaar (Cheetahs)

Currie Cup First Division: Cameron Hufke (Boland Kavaliers)

SuperSport Fans’ Moment: Cheslin Kolbe

Provincial Women’s Player: Libbie Janse van Rensburg (Bulls Daisies)

Referee: Jaco Peyper

URC Fans’ Player: Manie Libbok (Stormers)

SA Rugby Associate Member: SA Deaf Rugby Association

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