Du Preez caps fine season with SA Rugby award

Springbok scrum-half Fourie du Preez capped a wonderful three days in his career on Monday when named South Africa Rugby Player of the Year.

Du Preez was the architect of the three Blue Bulls tries last Saturday when they defeated Free State Cheetahs 36-24 in Pretoria to capture the Currie Cup inter-provincial championship.

Widely regarded as the best No. 9 in the world, Du Preez displayed his wide range of skills against the Cheetahs by creating tries via a tap penalty, a pass and one of his specialities, the perfectly placed kick ahead.

A member of the 2007 World Cup-winning team, he was also a key figure this year when the Springboks defeated the British and Irish Lions 2-1 and won the Tri-Nations with five wins in six outings against Australia and New Zealand.

Considered a great ambassador for South Africa rugby union, Du Preez also exerts a strong influence off the field and many believe he could succeed long-serving forward John Smit as Springbok skipper.

Fellow Springboks Smit, a hooker turned tighthead prop, veteran lock Victor Matfield, flyhalf Morne Steyn and flanker Heinrich Brüssow were the other finalists chosen by the media.

Deadly goal kicker Steyn and ruck-and-maul demon Brussow were the finds of the season with the latter achieving the seemingly impossible and keeping Schalk Burger out of the Bok starting line-up.

Steyn was a regular visitor to the stage at a black-tie banquet north of Johannesburg to receive the Players’ Player of Year, Super 14 Player of Year and Best Test player in the Lions series awards.

Brüssow was voted Young Player of Year and best provincial player during the Lions tour, which brought sweet revenge for South Africa after a shock 2-1 loss nine years ago.

A fantastic year for the Springboks was strongly reflected in the awards with the green and gold being voted Team of the Year and Peter de Villiers Coach of the Year.

Meanwhile, Piere Spies has withdrawn from the Springbok squad for the upcoming European tour due to an injured finger. He will be replaced by Jean Deysel, whose Coastal Sharks team-mate Ryan Kankowski is the likely replacement for Blue Bull Spies in the Test team.

World and Tri-Nations champions South Africa play Tests against France in Toulouse on November 13, Italy in Udine on November 21, and Ireland in Dublin on November 28. — AFP



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