Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth was on Friday evening named as one of the five nominees for the prestigious IRB World Player of the Year Award for 2013.
The 22-year-old Etzebeth is the youngest of the five nominees – the other four are Kieran Read and Ben Smith (both New Zealand), Leigh Halfpenny (Wales and the British & Irish Lions) and Sergio Parisse (Italy).
“This is a magnificent achievement for one of the best young players we’ve seen in the Springbok jersey in the last decade,” said Mr Oregan Hoskins, President of the South African Rugby Union (SARU).
“From everyone involved in South African rugby, we would like to congratulate Eben on this nomination and we’ll be rooting for him when the winner is revealed after the current series of Tests in the Northern Hemisphere.”
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer lauded Etzebeth for his contribution to South Africa in the last two seasons.
“I’ve followed his career closely since he was still at school and I’m extremely proud of Eben,” said Meyer.
“It’s almost amazing to think that he was still playing in the Varsity Cup for the University of Cape Town in 2011. He is very athletic, great in the line-outs and a strong ball-carrier, which makes him the perfect modern-day lock – in my opinion one of the best in the world – and an integral part of the Springbok team.
“Eben’s performances this year and in 2012 is testimony to someone who puts in a lot of hard work, is eager to learn and doesn’t shy away from a challenge. I’ve already said that I believe he can become a world great if he remains humble and keeps working hard and this nomination, in only his second year in Test rugby, underlines that.”
Etzebeth was very happy to hear of his nomination upon the Springboks’ return to their team hotel in Paris after Friday’s captain's run at the Stade de France, where they are facing France on Saturday.
“To be nominated is a huge honour,” said Etzebeth.
“I’m lucky to be part of a great team and in my opinion every one of the other Springboks could’ve made the final list, so it’s very humbling for me to be one of the five nominees.
“I would like to thank, from the bottom of my heart, my family and friends as well as everyone who has been involved in my career to date and who has believed in me. But first and foremost, we have a Test to get ready for against France on Saturday.”
Saturday’s Test will be Etzebeth’s 23rd for the Springboks. He made his debut on 9 June 2012 against England in Durban and has missed only one Test in the last two seasons. Etzebeth, a former SA Under-20 representative, has also played in 21 Vodacom Super Rugby matches for the DHL Stormers, as well as six in the Absa Currie Cup for DHL Western Province.
The nominees were selected by an independent panel, chaired by Australia’s RWC 1999 winning captain John Eales, and also including Will Greenwood, Gavin Hastings, Raphaël Ibanez, Francois Pienaar, Agustín Pichot, Scott Quinnell, Tana Umaga and Paul Wallace.
In support of the initial nomination process, the public now has the chance to have their say on the shortlist by voting at https://www.facebook.com/rugbyworldcup. The results of the public vote will be considered by the panel when finalising the winner.
The panel will reconvene after the final match on 30 November, when the IRB Player of the Year will be selected and announced shortly afterwards. The IRB Coach and Team of the Year 2013 winners will also be announced at this time.
The IRB Player of the Year is one of 13 categories of awards this year, including the IRB Coach of the Year, IRB Team of the Year, IRB Sevens Player of the Year, IRB Women’s Sevens Player of the Year and IRB Junior Player of the Year.