Three from SA in line for new URC awards
Two Lions players, Asenathi Ntlabakanye and Travis Gordon, are part of six nominees for the United Rugby Championship Unity Awards together with Springbok captain Siya Kolisi.
Three players, from Leinster, Ulster and Cardiff, complete the list of nominees.
The new URC Unity Awards look to recognise the great work done by players and teams within their communities and for charitable causes.
There are two categories – The Difference Maker Award, which will go to a player, and the Community Impact Award that will be presented to a team.
The winners of these awards will receive £5,000 from CVC to donate to their cause of choice (player) or to invest in their community programme (team).
Here are the six nominees for the Difference Maker Award:
Alex Soroka (Leinster)
In February of this year, a week before his 21st birthday, flanker Soroka was flying high, having just made his debut for Leinster. However, less than two weeks later, his world was rocked as Ukraine, the birthplace of his brother and parents, was invaded by Russia. Along with his family, Soroka started a GoFundMe page in aid of Kyiv’s Okhmadits Children’s Hospital.
Asenathi Ntlabakanye (Lions)
Prop forward Ntlabakanye is a product of the greater Bitou Municipality in the Western Cape of South Africa and wants to give back to his community, creating awareness of physical well-being. As such, he is involved in skills clinics at schools and local rugby clubs, as well as supporting a rugby tournament.
John Cooney (Ulster)
Irish international scrum-half Cooney has been a supporter of Tackle Your Feelings, a mental health and well-being campaign. As an ambassador for TYF, he has inspired people to be proactive with their mental health, leading by example through mindfulness, meditation, goal setting and striving to constantly improve.
Max Llewellyn and Teddy Williams (Cardiff Rugby)
The young Cardiff duo have taken significant roles in #StayStrongForOws, a campaign to raise funds for former Wales centre Owen Williams who suffered a catastrophic neck injury while playing for the club in 2014. That has involved attending events, sourcing auction items, driving social media engagement and cycling more than 500km from Cardiff to Paris.
Siya Kolisi (Sharks)
Along with his wife, the Springboks World Cup winning-captain has founded the Kolisi Foundation, which seeks to help people living in under-resourced communities in South Africa. The back row star has never forgotten where he came from and uses the principles he has learnt on the rugby field in his foundation, with he and his wife having a burning desire to see people grow and contribute to a united and empowered society.
Travis Gordon (Lions)
Flanker Gordon has supported Thol’thuba Athletics on a regular basis, donating a set of soccer shirts, along with balls for various sports. Through his assistance, they have managed to reach out to Joga Bonito FC, in Yeoville, Katlehong Community Stars and Yeoville Tennis Club, among other organisations.
The judging panel for the awards features World Cup final referee Nigel Owens, the CSR Manager at CVC Jane Howard, Sports Broadcaster Emma Dodds and URC Head of Operations Amy Monaghan.
The winners will be revealed on Wednesday December 21, with the award presentations to the winning club and player taking place ahead of games in Round 10.