Springbok and Cheetahs centre Francois Venter picked up the Fans’ Choice Award, the only award voted for by the public, at the BrightRock Players Choice Awards.
Professional South African rugby players were honoured and acknowledged their peers at the inaugural Awards held at the Sandton Convention Centre earlier in the week.
Venter walked away with not only the award, but also R50 000 for his chosen charity. He teamed up with Bouwer Bosch to campaign for the award on the Awards Facebook page. The R50 000 prize money won by Venter will be donated to Liefde Wen in aid of rugby development in rural Transkei.
Siya Kolisi was named the 2017 Players’ Player of the Year; Malcom Marx the Defender of the Year; Rosko Specman the Backline Player of the Year; Kolisi the Forward of the Year; Steven Kitshoff the Best off the Bench award, while Makazole Mapimpi received the gong for the player that has made great strides in his rugby career over the past year.
These above were voted the winners by rugby players from the fourteen professional rugby unions in South Africa. Each winning player received R10 000 to pledge to the charity of his choice.
The players were not only involved with the nomination and voting process, but also in shaping the vibrant and somewhat unconventional awards evening. The event, the first-ever awards for professional rugby players by professional rugby players, was designed by the players themselves to precisely match their needs and wants when it comes to recognising excellence on the rugby field. Provider of needs-matched life insurance, BrightRock, and MyPlayers, the South African rugby players’ organisation, hosted the evening.
The evening was attended by players, celebrities and fans. Boity Thulo, and Jean de Villiers acted as event MCs, while Morgan Beatbox, Rubber Duc, and Yollandi Nortjie performed during the event. On stage to help hand over the awards were the likes of Sureshnie Rider, Sky Tshabalala, Bosch, Stuart Taylor, Eloise Cupido and cast members from Getroud met Rugby.
The evening took a surprise turn in the form of hidden talent displays by the players, where Puma Hugo Kloppers impressed with his singing and guitar skills, and Dillyn Leyds, Teboho Mohoje and Trevor Nyakane also wowed the audience with a dance number. There was even a “Dub Smash” number featuring some of South Africa’s best loved rugby players singing along to popular tunes.
But it wasn’t just the players, performers and presenters who got to shine at the awards. In a heart-warming gesture, the Springbok Player Group donated R50 000 out of the players’ collective income in support of Lifa Hlongwa, a talented young player who sustained serious damage to his spinal cord in August this year while playing for the Northwood Crusaders in a match against Amanzimtoti.
Elma Smit, marketing manager for MyPlayers, commented: “At MyPlayers we’re very passionate about creating more opportunities like these. For players to give back to causes close to their hearts, to get to know fans better and to celebrate the excellence of their peers”.
BrightRock executive director, Suzanne Stevens said “We’re excited to have partnered with MyPlayers and the players themselves, helping them craft a needs-matched awards event where they got to decide about every aspect – from the awards categories to the winners, to the format of the event – even the entertainment”.