DHL Stormers and Springbok second row giant Eben Etzebeth has been named in the first-ever IRPA Ultimate Rugby players’ World XV of the Year.
Etzebeth has also been nominated for the 2013 SA Rugby Player of the Year Award – capping off yet another massive year for the powerhouse lock, despite ending it with a serious foot injury against France last month.
The players’ World XV of the Year comprises seven New Zealanders, four Welshmen, two South Africans (Etzebeth and Bismarck du Plessis) and one player each from France and England.
There was stiff competition for places at loose forward, where All Blacks star Liam Messam only just pipped Argentine Juan Fernandez Lobbe for the No.6 berth, and in the halfback pairings, where New Zealanders Aaron Smith and Aaron Cruden received marginally more votes than Samoan No.9 Kahn Fotuali’i and Irish stand-off Johnny Sexton, respectively.
However, the biggest bone of contention in the World XV was in the midfield with voting spread across four players – New Zealanders Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith; DHL Stormers captain Jean de Villiers and French inside centre Wesley Fofana. The final count favoured Fofana and Smith.
All Blacks star Kieran Read was paid a double compliment by his fellow professionals – winning IRPA’s first Ultimate Rugby players’ Player of the Year award, as well as a place in the players’ World XV of the Year.
Only days after being named the IRB’s outstanding player of the year and New Zealand Rugby’s Player of the Year, Read becomes the first recipient of the players’ Player of the Year title, having shrugged off challenges from fellow shortlisted candidates, Wales’ Leigh Halfpenny and All Blacks teammate Ben Smith.
* Meanwhile, rugby supporters still have time to vote for the IRPA Fans’ Player and World XV of the Year Awards; the winners of which will be announced next week.
All fans need to do is to go to www.ultimaterugby.com, download the mobile app and follow the voting instructions contained within.
ULTIMATE RUGBY IRPA AWARDS (2013) – CATEGORY WINNERS:
Players’ Player of the Year: Kieran Read (New Zealand)
Players’ International Newcomer of the Year: Israel Folau (Australia)
Players’ Team of the Year: New Zealand
Players’ World XV of the Year: 15 Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), 14 Ben Smith (New Zealand), 13 Conrad Smith (New Zealand), 12 Wesley Fofana (France), 11 George North (Wales), 10 Aaron Cruden (New Zealand), 9 Aaron Smith (New Zealand), 8 Kieran Read (New Zealand), 7 Sam Warburton (Wales), 6 Liam Messam (New Zealand), 5 Sam Whitelock (New Zealand), 4 Eben Etzebeth (South Africa), 3 Adam Jones (Wales), 2 Bismarck du Plessis (South Africa), 1 Alex Corbisiero (England).