Pienaar in line for top award
Cape Town - Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar has been nominated on the longlist for ERC European Player of the Year for the third season in a row.
Pienaar's Irish club, Ulster, announced the news via their official website
Pienaar scored 54 points, including two tries, in Ulster's 100% pool stage performance in the Heineken Cup, the Northern Hemisphere's equivalent of Super Rugby.
Selected by a distinguished panel of rugby experts, the longlist for one of the most prized individual accolades in the game includes 15 players from the 44 clubs competing in the 2013/14 tournaments.
The search to select a successor to Toulon captain, Jonny Wilkinson, who guided the French club to an historic first Heineken Cup success last season, was based on player performances during the pool stages of the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Pienaar, who made the longlist last season and in 2012, and Steffon Armitage of Toulon, who was also nominated last season, are included again along with Wilkinson
The judging panel will also have the option to consider additional players who make major contributions during the knockout stages of both tournaments before announcing a five-man shortlist following the semi-finals with the overall winner named directly after the ERC European club finals in Cardiff in May.
In addition to the decision of the panel, the 44 clubs in the Heineken Cup and the Amlin Challenge Cup will have the opportunity to vote for contenders nominated on the ERC European Player of the Year 2014 shortlist, while supporters can also have their say on Twitter using #ERCPlayer2014
, and on the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup Facebook pages.ERC European Player of the Year 2014 longlist:
Steffon Armitage (Toulon)
Miles Benjamin (Leicester Tigers)
Sean Cronin (Leinster)
Jean-Marc Doussain (Toulouse)
Matt Giteau (Toulon)
Alex Goode (Saracens)
Cian Healy (Leinster)
Fritz Lee (ASM Clermont Auvergne)
George North (Northampton Saints)
Paul O'Connell (Munster)
Peter O'Mahony (Munster)
Louis Picamoles (Toulouse)Ruan Pienaar (Ulster)
Sitiveni Sivivatu (Clermont Auvergne)
Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon)