That time World Rugby insulted South Africa
FLASHBACK: In a world without rugby, one has plenty of time for reflection and now we go back to 2009 when a South African stalwart was robbed of the highest accolade.
The Springboks were on top of the world. They won a dramatic series against the British and Irish Lions and won the Tri-Nations, beating the All Blacks three times in the process.
Before that, the Bulls won their second Super Rugby title.
The man at the heart of all that success was scrumhalf Fourie du Preez.
Du Preez was the general on the field – the man who made the key decisions and who controlled the flow of the game.
He produced masterclass after masterclass and was the engineer for some of the Springboks’ top tries that year.
Many Springbok fans were expecting Du Preez to walk away with the IRB (now World Rugby) Player of the Year award, but it was not to be.
Instead, the award went to New Zealand captain Richie McCaw, which was one of the great injustices in our great game.
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McCaw was out with a knee injury for a large chunk of the season and when he was on the field he was not the McCaw of previous seasons.
It was an average year for the All Black legend at both franchise level with the Crusaders and international level for the All Blacks.
It was mindboggling to witness how the then IRB’s judging panel got it so wrong.
Were they overcompensating for not giving the award to McCaw in 2008 when he played the best rugby of his career? He wasn’t even nominated.
In that year, the award went to Wales wing Shane Williams.
Returning to 2009, another player was way ahead of McCaw in terms of performances and that was Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll.
Ireland went through the year unbeaten and won the Grand Slam. He was also part of the B&I Lions tour to South Africa that year.
Du Preez ended up never winning the Player of the Year award despite being one of the best players of his generation.
It’s a big insult to South Africa and one of the country’s greatest players.