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Ultimate peer recognition for Am, Davids and Roos

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In a landmark moment for professional rugby players in South Africa, three players have been recognised by their peers with Players’ Player of the Year awards.

Since its inception in 2005*, the South African Players’ Player of the Year has been chosen by the players from predominantly the men’s fifteens game. This year, members of MyPlayers decided to make the circle bigger, introducing three categories: Men’s Fifteens, Men’s Sevens, and Women.

Players had a week to vote for their favourites, and the 2022 recipients of the professional game’s most sought-after peer-to-peer accolades are:

  • Men’s Fifteens Players’ Player of the Year: LUKHANYO AM (other nominees: Eben Etzebeth, Malcolm Marx, Evan Roos, Damian Willemse)
  • Men’s Sevens Players’ Player of the Year: ZAIN DAVIDS (other nominees: Selvyn Davids, JC Pretorius)
  • Women Players’ Player of the Year: NADINE ROOS (other nominees: Ayanda Malinga, Aphiwe Ngwevu, Sizophila Solontsi)

Eugene Henning, CEO of MyPlayers, remarked: “Following the 2021 MyPlayers Awards, several players approached us about the format and categories of the annual player-led honours. It was felt that the Blitzboks and Bok Women, sevens and fifteens, didn’t have a fair chance to be recognised beyond categories such as Best off the Bench, Backline Player or Most Improved Player of the Year. Subsequently, we retired almost all existing categories and introduced only three Players’ Player of the Year awards. By doing this, the players are acknowledging the status and growth of South African rugby beyond the men’s fifteens game.”

Henning congratulated the three recipients: “In 2020 and 2021, the players named Lukhanyo as the Best Defender of the Year, but there is so much more to his game than his defensive abilities. Despite suffering an injury against the Wallabies in Sydney, his fellow players still cast the vast majority of votes in his favour, and him being named Men’s Fifteens Players’ Player of the Year comes as no surprise.

“Zain was included in the HSBC Dream Team following the 2022 World Rugby Sevens Series during which he scored 13 tries, made 68 carries, 18 line breaks and 91 tackles. What the Men’s Sevens Players’ Player of the Year Award shows is that he is also a magnificent team player, and I don’t think there can be a better way to conclude one’s season than receiving this sort of recognition from your teammates.

Zain Davids.

Zain Davids.

“Nadine was nominated in the most tightly contested category of the three, and I think that says something about the team spirit and effort of the Bok Women to elevate the game to a different standard, over the past two years in particular. Nadine is a member of both the national fifteens and sevens squads, and her performances at the recent Sevens World Cup in Cape Town underscored her class as a player, while this reward illustrates how highly her teammates regard her as a player and person. By being named the first Women Players’ Player of the Year, she’s breaking new ground for women’s rugby in South Africa, and her example will inspire many more girls to follow in her footsteps.”

Besides receiving identical trophies, the three recipients are also rewarded with a family and/or friends getaway from The Safari Guys. More details on these prizes will be communicated to the three recipients and on social media.

PLAYER REMARKS:

Lukhanyo Am

Being named Men’s Fifteens Players’ Player of the Year really means a lot to me. It remains a special award to receive, and what makes it great is that it was voted for by my teammates and fellow players.

I am honoured. This has really been an amazing season for me. I had a good start, and I finished it on a high as well before I got injured. Throughout, I felt in good form, and importantly, I felt confident every second I was on the field. For the season that lies ahead, I really hope to take up where I left off.

Zain Davids

I always strive to set an example for my teammates, whether that’s on or off the playing field. On a personal level, this recognition means the world to me. Yes, I play every game as if it’s my last, but I can only hope that my fellow Blitzboks reap the rewards of my efforts. Being named Men’s Sevens Players’ Player of the Year confirms that I am contributing to our team’s success.

In that regard, I must acknowledge the support structures and people I have around me. This enables me to convert individual effort into strong team performances, and while this is an individual award, it does belong to the team as well.

Nadine Roos.

Nadine Roos.

This is the first year members of MyPlayers were given the opportunity to nominate and vote for a Men’s Sevens Players’ Player of the Year, and I think this is a fairer reflection of the South African rugby landscape. I sincerely believe sevens plays a massive role in this country and the team has worked incredibly hard over many years to attain the status sevens now enjoys here and abroad. Just as with fifteens players, we are also goal-driven individuals, and having an accolade such us this rewards players for working hard, playing to inspire others, and chasing our individual and collective goals.

Nadine Roos

I live by the mantra, “Work hard in silence, and let success make the noise”. When I reflect on what it means to me to be named as the first Women Players’ Player of the Year, I have to reflect on the people I spend most of my time with – my teammates. In the off-season, we run the most, work the hardest, and those are the times when we have to push and pull each other through tough moments in pursuit of our ultimate goals. It’s also when players really get to know one another; how hard someone is willing to work and what they stand for.

My teammates know me as someone who always works incredibly hard. I’m tough in training and in matches, and I value a collaborative environment where individuals succeed because of the team. I attach tremendous value to this accolade because it means my contributions are being seen and felt. I want to be known as someone who is always professional and whose work ethic and personality contribute to the wellbeing of the team. Being voted Players’ Player of the Year by them and knowing that they believe in me is truly special. In team sports, having the backing of one’s teammates is a major factor in an individual’s ability to perform.

The introduction of the Women Players’ Player of the Year category is a significant moment for women’s rugby in general. I recall a conversation we had in the team a while back: We wondered when women were going to be given the opportunity to nominate and vote for players in similar categories to those the men have had for quite some time. Now, we can finally say this reward is an acknowledgement of the growth in women’s rugby in South Africa, especially during the last two years.

Players are being seen, and this will undoubtedly contribute to further growth of the national sevens and fifteens women’s teams. Had the teams not developed, there wouldn’t have been players to nominate. But there’s a healthy rivalry among players in both squads, and that allows us to improve our individual and team standards to a level where recognising players becomes a natural progression in the game. This award will serve as an incentive for every player to work even harder.

*Previous recipients of the Men’s Fifteens Players’ Players of the Year award: John Smit (2005), Kabamba Floors (2006), Willem de Waal (2007), Jean de Villiers (2008), Morné Steyn (2009), Gio Aplon (2010), Bismarck du Plessis (2011), JP Pietersen (2012), Willie le Roux (2013), Duane Vermeulen (2014), Jaco Kriel (2015), Jean-Luc du Preez (2016), Siya Kolisi (2017), Malcolm Marx (2018), Pieter-Steph du Toit (2019), Duane Vermeulen (2020), Cheslin Kolbe (2021).

Content & Images from – South Africa Rugby


6 Nations

‘It’s A Great Appointment’ – Farrell On Murphy’s Move To Ulster

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With Dan McFarland stepping down as Ulster head coach this week, it has been confirmed that Murphy will take over the role on an interim basis following the conclusion of the Under-20 Six Nations Championship.

The Ireland Under-20s are in title contention again thanks to two opening wins, with Murphy having overseen back-to-back U-20 Grand Slam successes and a World Rugby U-20 Championship final appearance in the last two seasons.

Farrell first worked alongside Murphy when they were defence coach and skills and kicking coach respectively, during Joe Schmidt’s coaching reign with Ireland.

The pair have kept up a strong connection with Murphy continuing for a short while as a specialist kicking resource for the senior squad, and the Under-20s often training with Farrell’s men during the Six Nations window.

“I think it’s a great appointment. I think Richie will do a fantastic job (at Ulster), his rugby knowledge is second to none,” commented Farrell.

“He is a very experienced guy that has been an assistant for quite some time and I know that he worked with us for a short period before we went to the Under-20s, but that was his next step to take that type of mantle on and do it his way.

He has certainly done a fantastic job. I mean, coaching the Under-20s is coaching in its purest form, it’s bloody difficult because of the swapping and changing the whole time each year.

“It shows exactly the quality that he’s got and his knowledge of the whole game. I think the players up at Ulster there will love him.

“His attitude is great but first and foremost I think they will respect his knowledge, definitely.”

McFarland was in charge of Ulster since 2018 and guided them to the PRO14 final two years later. They looked to be finding form again with a trio of wins over Racing 92, Connacht, and Leinster, coming into the New Year.

However, last Sunday’s poor 19-17 defeat at the Ospreys was their third loss in a row, leaving them eighth in the BKT United Rugby Championship, and came just a few weeks after failing to reach the last 16 of the Investec Champions Cup.

Assistant coach Dan Soper will take the reins for their next URC fixture at home to the Dragons on Saturday week, before Murphy comes on board for their two-match tour to South Africa where they will play the Hollywoodbets Sharks and the DHL Stormers.

The Bray man will have to quickly get up to the speed as the Ulstermen then travel to Montpellier in the EPCR Challenge Cup’s round of 16, just after Easter. Given the people involved, Farrell is confident they can turn things around at Kingspan Stadium.

“Look, it’s obvious that we want all the provinces playing at the top of their game. If that happens, it’s a special place to be but it doesn’t tend to happen that often, does it?

“One thing I know for sure is that Ulster have got a fantastic squad and good people up there. The lads that we have within our squad are exemplary to the province, as far as their attitudes are concerned whether they’re playing or not.”

A dislocated toe, suffered during that loss to the Ospreys, means Iain Henderson is unavailable for Ireland’s clash with Wales on Saturday. His Ulster colleague, Stuart McCloskey, is one of only two backs on the hosts’ bench as they opt to return to a six-two split.

New-look Wales, who lost their first two games to Scotland and England by a combined three points, come to Dublin with a squad that has accumulated 662 caps, compared to Ireland’s 1012.

119 of those caps are provided by George North alone, while 21-year-old Exeter Chiefs lock Dafydd Jenkins continues as captain, and Cardiff back rower Mackenzie Martin could make his debut off the bench.

Asked what he is expecting from Wales this weekend, Farrell replied: “Playing against Wales, you know it’s always going to be a scrap.

“You know that every single time Wales play against Ireland, it means probably a little bit more to them, I’ve been told (that) over the years.

“So we’re aware of that, and we also know as well that Wales historically have got better throughout the competition.

“We’re five weeks into it come the weekend, from when we first started training. We know that they’ll be better and hopefully we’ve used our time wisely as well.”

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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6 Nations

Wales team to face Ireland in Dublin named

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Senior men’s head coach Warren Gatland has named the Wales side to face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin in the third round of the 2024 Guinness Six Nations on Saturday 24 February (KO 2.15pm live on ITV and S4C).

There is one change to the starting XV that played England at Twickenham on 10 February, with Sam Costelow returning for Wales at fly half.

Among the replacements back-row Mackenzie Martin is in line to win his first senior cap this weekend and would become the 1,200th Wales men’s international.

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Tight-head prop Dillon Lewis would be making his first appearance of this Championship if called on from the bench.

Gatland said: “We are excited to go out to Dublin and test ourselves against one of the leading sides in world rugby. It’s a challenge we are relishing.

“We’ve made steps in the last couple of games and now it’s about building on that, learning from those experiences and taking that into this weekend.

“It’s about continuing to work hard, looking for accuracy in our performance across 80 minutes and also keeping our discipline.”

Wales senior men’s team to play Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin in the Guinness Six Nations, Saturday 24 February KO 2.15pm GMT. Live on ITV and S4C.
15. Cameron Winnett (Cardiff Rugby – 2 caps)
14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby – 56 caps)
13. George North (Ospreys – 119 caps)
12. Nick Tompkins (Saracens – 34 caps)
11. Rio Dyer (Dragons – 16 caps)
10. Sam Costelow (Scarlets – 9 caps)
9. Tomos Williams (Cardiff Rugby – 55 caps)
1. Gareth Thomas (Ospreys – 27 caps)
2. Elliot Dee (Dragons – 48 caps)
3. Keiron Assiratti (Cardiff Rugby – 4 caps)
4. Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs – 14 caps) Captain / Capten
5. Adam Beard (Ospreys – 53 caps)
6. Alex Mann (Cardiff Rugby – 2 caps)
7. Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers – 15 caps)
8. Aaron Wainwright (Dragons – 45 caps)

Replacements

16. Ryan Elias (Scarlets – 40 caps)
17. Corey Domachowski (Cardiff Rugby – 8 caps)
18. Dillon Lewis (Harlequins – 54 caps)
19. Will Rowlands (Racing 92 – 30 caps)
20. Mackenzie Martin (Cardiff Rugby – uncapped)
21. Kieran Hardy (Scarlets – 19 caps)
22. Ioan Lloyd (Scarlets – 4 caps)
23. Mason Grady (Cardiff Rugby – 8 caps)

Images & Content – Wales Rugby


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6 Nations

Jager and Ahern Join Ireland Squad Ahead Of Wales

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The Ireland squad re-assembled in Dublin on Sunday evening ahead of this weekend’s Guinness Men’s Six Nations Round 3 clash against Wales at Aviva Stadium (Kick-off 2.15pm).

Prop Oli Jager has joined the squad and Thomas Ahern has also linked up with Andy Farrell‘s side at the IRFU High Performance Centre this week.

Iain Henderson picked up a foot injury during Ulster’s URC game away to Ospreys on Sunday and there will be a further update later in the week.

The Ireland Match Day Squad to face Wales at Aviva Stadium will be named on Thursday at 2pm.

Ireland Squad – Wales Week: 

Backs (15):

Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht)
Harry Byrne (UCD/Leinster)
Craig Casey (Shannon/Munster)
Jack Crowley (Cork Constitution/Munster)
Ciaran Frawley (UCD/Leinster)
Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster)
Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster)
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster)
Jordan Larmour (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
James Lowe (Leinster)
Stuart McCloskey (Bangor/Ulster)
Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster)
Calvin Nash (Young Munster/Munster)
Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster)
Jacob Stockdale (Lurgan/Ulster)

Forwards (21):

Thomas Ahern (Shannon/Munster)*
Ryan Baird (Dublin University/Leinster)
Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht)
Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster)
Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster)
Caelan Doris (St. Mary’s College/Leinster)
Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster)
Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster)
Iain Henderson (Academy/Ulster)
Oli Jager (Munster)*
Ronan Kelleher (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Jeremy Loughman (Garryowen/Munster)
Joe McCarthy (Dublin University/Leinster)
Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster)(captain)
Tom O’Toole (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster)
James Ryan (UCD/Leinster)
Dan Sheehan (Lansdowne/Leinster)
Tom Stewart (Ballynahinch/Ulster)
Nick Timoney (Banbridge/Ulster)
Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster)

*Denotes uncapped player

Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography


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