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Bok battles X-factor SA stars for main URC gong

NEWS: The Bulls duo of Kurt-Lee Arendse and Cameron Hanekom are up against the Lions’ versatile Sanele Nohamba for the coveted United Rugby Championship Player of the Season Award for 2024.

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The Gauteng-based trio garnered the most votes in the nomination process, with Springbok head coach Rassie Erasmus, the four South African franchises and local media selecting their star players of the season.

The fleet-footed Arendse, 27, has been in sublime form for the Bulls, making 15 clean breaks and scoring eight tries so far this season, but he’s also been brilliant fielding high kicks – both on attack and defence – and he’s made his presence felt with a number of proper defensive hits.

The 22-year-old Hanekom, a former Junior Springbok star, has been a revelation at the back of the Bulls’ scrum, with the young No.8 proving his worth as ball carrier and in defence, while he is second overall for offloads with 22, and sixth for turnovers won, with 13.

The nippy Nohamba, in turn, has underlined his value as utility player by shining for the Lions at scrumhalf and flyhalf, while he has also proved himself to be a very useful kicking option by slotting 32 conversions, 14 penalty goals and a drop goal through the uprights. The 25-year-old’s 119 points scored during the campaign places him fourth overall.

The winner will be announced on Tuesday, June 18, as part of the series of URC Awards for the season.

Here is a full list of the awards on offer, the winning criteria and when the winners will be announced.

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Tackle Machine
Criteria: Players who have made 150 or more tackles during the regular season will be eligible for the award, with the individual who boasts the highest accuracy taking home the prize.
Winner announced: Tuesday, June 11

Turnover King
Criteria: This award will be heading home with the player who has won the most turnovers during the regular season, with jackal turnovers used as the tie-breaker.
Winner announced: Tuesday, June 11

Golden Boot
Criteria: The Gilbert Golden Boot is awarded in recognition of the most accurate place-kicker, with all kickers who have attempted a minimum of 30 ranked by their success percentage.
Winner announced: Tuesday, June 11

Top Try Scorer
Criteria: Awarded to the player who has scored the most tries during the regular season.
Winner announced: Wednesday, June 12

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Ironman
Criteria: Given to the player who has racked up the most minutes in the regular season.
Winner announced: Wednesday, June 12

Next-Gen Player of the Season
Criteria: This award is open to players who were aged under 23 at the beginning of the 2023/24 season, and had earned no more than five international caps by the end of the 2022/23 season (incorporating the fact that it was a Rugby World Cup year).
Determined by a media vote and the nine-appearance threshold also applies here. This award is to recognise young up-and-coming talent.
Winner announced: Thursday, June 13

Try of the Season 
Criteria: A shortlist of six of the top tries of the season will be put out to a fans vote on social media. The try which receives the most votes from the fans will be the winner.
Winners announced: Thursday, June 13

Elite XV
Criteria: Determined by a media vote, players must have made at least nine appearances to be considered, with the media panel provided a shortlist of 10 per position by URC StatMaster.
The player with the most votes in each position earns a place in the team.
Winners announced: Friday, June 14

Innovation Award
Criteria: Determined by a Panel appointed by Elixirr, a club will be rewarded for innovation by growing the game through digital fan engagement, match day experience, and social purpose.
Clubs who break the mold and demonstrate driving a real by increasing following and revenue will be considered.
Winners announced: Friday, June 14

URC Player of the Season
Criteria: Awarded to a player from one of the four South African franchises. This will form as part of the annual SA Rugby Awards and will be determined by votes from the South African media, the four South African franchise coaches, and the Springboks head coach.
Winner announced: Tuesday, June 18

Coach of the Season
Criteria: The URC’s top coach will be voted for by the competition’s head coaches.
Winner announced: Wednesday, June 19

Players’ Player of the Season
Criteria: This prestigious award will be voted on by the Captain and Vice-Captain of all 16 teams, with all nominees again required to have made a minimum of nine appearances.
Winner announced: Thursday, June 20

URC Award Winners 2022-23
Tackle Machine: John Hodnett (Munster)
Turnover King: Thomas Young (Cardiff)
Golden Boot: Johan Goosen (Bulls)
Top Try Scorer: Tom Stewart (Ulster)
Ironman: Quan Horn (Lions)
Next-Gen Player of the Season: Tom Stewart (Ulster)
Fans’ Player of the Season: Manie Libbok (Stormers)
Coach of the Season: Franco Smith (Glasgow Warriors)
Players’ Player of the Season: Dan Sheehan (Leinster)

Elite XV: 15 Kurt-Lee Arendse ( Bulls), 14 Darcy Graham (Edinburgh), 13 Sione Tuipolutu (Glasgow Warriors), 12 Daniel du Plessis (Stormers), 11 Simone Gesi (Zebre Parma), 10 Ross Byrne (Leinster), 9 Grant Williams (Sharks), 8 Gavin Coombes, (Munster, 7 Scott Penny (Leinster), 6 Vaea Fifita (Scarlets), 5 Federico Ruzza (Benetton), 4 Niall Murray (Connacht), 3 Finlay Bealham (Connacht), 2 Dan Sheehan (Leinster), 1 Steven Kitshoff (Stormers/Ulster).

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