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World Rugby Awards: Bok finally nominated for Player of the Year

NEWS: World Rugby has revealed the shortlists for the prestigious World Rugby Awards 2023.


Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber, centurion lock Eben Etzebeth and flyhalf Manie Libbok are among a top-class list of nominees for the 2023 World Rugby Awards, which will be presented at the Opéra Garnier in Paris on Sunday, October 29 – a day after Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final at the Stade de France.

Nienaber is in line for the World Rugby Coach of the Year award, while Etzebeth and Libbok have been nominated in the categories of World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year and World Rugby Men’s 15s Breakthrough Player of the Year respectively.

Etzebeth was also selected for the World Rugby Men’s 15s Dream Team.

Nienaber, who took up the role as Springbok head coach in 2020 after serving as an assistant coach to Rassie Erasmus, who switched roles from Bok head coach to SA Rugby Director of Rugby after the team’s triumphant 2019 RWC campaign in Japan, will go up against Ian Foster (New Zealand), Andy Farrell (Ireland) and Simon Raiwalui (Fiji) for the world’s most prestigious coaching award.

Etzebeth, who is currently the third most capped Springbok player of all time with 118 Test caps, has been nominated for the Player of the Year award alongside Bundee Aki (Ireland centre), Antoine Dupont (France scrumhalf and captain) and Ardie Savea (New Zealand loose forward).

Libbok features on an exciting list of nominees for Breakthrough Player of the Year along with Louis Bielle-Biarrey (France wing), Mark Tele’a and Tamaiti Williams (New Zealand wing and prop respectively).


“We would like to congratulate Jacques, Eben and Manie for being nominated for these prestigious awards and we wish them luck for the awards ceremony,” said SA Rugby President, Mark Alexander.

“These awards recognise the best coaches and players in the world, and to have nominees in three categories is a testament to the class of our coaches and players in South Africa.

“I would also like to use this opportunity wish the Springboks good luck for the World Cup final against New Zealand on Saturday at the Stade de France. It is a massive honour to represent your country on the biggest stage in world rugby and everyone at SA Rugby and the entire nation is behind you. We have full faith in you to continue giving the country hope and putting smiles on people’s faces.”

World Rugby Awards 2023 – NOMINEES

Coach of the Year

Andy Farrell (Ireland)
Ian Foster (New Zealand)
Simon Raiwalui (Fiji)
Jacques Nienaber (South Africa)


Ian Foster and Jacques Nienaber have led their respective teams to the World Cup 2023 final and would like nothing more than to bow out of their roles with a record fourth Webb Ellis Cup lifted for their nations. Andy Farrell has taken Ireland to the top of the World Rugby Men’s Rankings, but his side fell once more at the quarterfinal hurdle.

Meanwhile, Simon Raiwalui stepped in as Fiji coach in February and had an instant impact on the players who not only reached the first RWC quarterfinal for 16 years but also a first win over Australia in 69 years.

Breakthrough Player of the Year

Louis Bielle-Biarrey (France)
Manie Libbok (South Africa)
Mark Tele’a (New Zealand)
Tamaiti Williams (New Zealand)

In a year when many debutants have shone on the global stage, this quartet stood out with All Blacks prop Tamaiti Williams only the third front-row to be nominated for this award. Teammate Mark Tele’a scored the opening try of RWC 2023 against France and is a constant threat, as is 20-year-old Louis Bielle-Biarrey – the youngest contender – who has quickly established himself in a dangerous French back three and started four of their five RWC 2023 matches. Manie Libbok has seized the opportunity afforded him with injuries at flyhalf to catch the eye with his open play, not least his outrageous no-look kick-pass assist against Scotland.

Player of the Year

Bundee Aki (Ireland)
Antoine Dupont (France)
Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)
Ardie Savea (New Zealand)

An even split of forwards and backs who have all been at the heart of their nations’ successes in 2023. Centre Bundee Aki was inspired at RWC 2023, scoring five tries in a tournament that saw him play his 50th test for Ireland. A test centurion, Eben Etzebeth continues to be a towering presence in the Springbok lineout while also weighing in with important tries as his score in the quarterfinal defeat of France showed. Fellow finalist Ardie Savea always seems to be everywhere on the pitch for the All Blacks, his tireless work-rate evident for all to see in the quarterfinal defeat of Ireland. Finally, scrumhalf Antoine Dupont is not only the captain of France but the heartbeat of the team that has captured the imagination of the French public, despite their RWC heartbreak, with his constant threat around the pitch.

Sevens Player of the Year

Leroy Carter (New Zealand)
Rodrigo Isgro (Argentina)
Marcos Moneta (Argentina)
Akuila Rokolisoa (New Zealand)

The top two teams in the 2023 Series provide all four nominees with Leroy Carter and hot-stepper Akuila Rokolisoa playing a key part in the All Blacks Sevens’ 14th title. Marcos Moneta and Rodrigo Isgro, meanwhile, contributed 80 tries between them to a historic season for Argentina which saw them win three Cup titles from six finals to finish as runners-up and secure qualification for the Olympic Games Paris 2024. Isgro’s form in sevens also saw him called up to the Argentina squad for the World Cup 2023 in France.

International Rugby Players’ Try of the Year

Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland, v England on February 4)
Damian Penaud (France, v Ireland on February 11)
Hugo Keenan (Ireland, France on February 11)
Vinaya Habosi (Fiji, v Georgia on October 1)

Three tries from the Six Nations and one from Rugby World Cup 2023 make up the shortlist – including two in the same match, Ireland v France in Dublin in February. Hugo Keenan scored the opening try of that match, taking an inside pass from Finlay Bealham to slice through the French defence before throwing a dummy and touching down. Damian Penaud hit back for France, collecting a flicked pass from Thomas Ramos in his own 22 to set off and find Anthony Jelonch in support, the flank charging into Ireland’s half before passing back to his winger to finish off the move.

Duhan van der Merwe’s try in the Calcutta Cup match was a solo effort, receiving the ball just inside Scotland’s half and finding a gap in the England defence before shrugging off five tackles as he wound his way through to touch down. Vinaya Habosi’s try against Georgia had it all, quick hands moving the ball along the line, a through-the-legs pass from Selesitino Ravutaumada and a charging run by Levani Botia before the flank managed to offload while falling in the tackle for the supporting Habosi to score.

Women’s Sevens Player of the Year

Michaela Blyde (New Zealand)
Maddison Levi (Australia)
Tyla Nathan-Wong (New Zealand)
Reapi Ulunisau (Fiji)

This quartet have all been nominated for this award previously, with Black Ferns Sevens flyer Michaela Blyde the only winner – in both 2017 and 2018. Blyde and Tyla Nathan-Wong were again at the heart of New Zealand’s latest title success, although it was Maddison Levi who was the top try-scorer with 57 across seven events – a record for a single women’s Series. Reapi Ulunisau, who burst onto the scene at Tokyo 2020, remains an influential player for Fiji and a threat from anywhere on the field.

Other Categories

Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service
International Rugby Players Special Merit Award
Rugby for All Award
World Rugby Referee Award
World Rugby Men’s 15s Dream Team of the Year

Categories awarded following the conclusion of WXV

World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year
World Rugby Women’s 15s Dream Team of the Year
World Rugby Women’s 15s Breakthrough Player of the Year
International Rugby Players Women’s Try of the Year

World Rugby Awards: Bok finally nominated for Player of the Year

Source: World Rugby & SA Rugby

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