Cape Town - Mark Alexander, President of SA Rugby, congratulated the three South Africans, Seabelo Senatla, Rasta Rasivhenge and Jean de Villiers, who walked away with honours in various categories at the prestigious World Rugby Awards in London on Sunday night.
Senatla became the third South African to be crowned the World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year, in association with HSBC, when he edged out Fiji’s Osea Kolinisau and Virimi Vakatawa of France for the top award.
He scored 66 tries in 10 events in the 2015/16 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, which was the second-highest in the 17-year history of the series, before adding four more tries at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
“Seabelo gave us many reasons to smile during the last Sevens Series and all of us involved in South African rugby are very proud of this humble and hard-working young man,” said Alexander.
“But rugby is a team sport and I’m sure Seabelo will be the first to give credit to his team-mates - the Blitzboks had a great season and we can’t wait for the next series to start, as the challenge will be a great one to take things one step further.”
Rasivhenge shared the World Rugby Referee Award with Alhambra Nievas from Spain. They had the honour of refereeing the men’s and women’s Olympic gold medal matches in Rio to bring the curtain down on an impressive season of Sevens rugby.
The speedy South African referee, who officiated on both the men’s and women’s series and took charge of the men’s finals in Sydney and Las Vegas, was nominated with Nievas and South Africa’s Jaco Peyper and Jérôme Garcès of France.
“Rasta, who won our own Outsurance Referee Award a few weeks ago, was rewarded for hours and hours of very hard work and we’re proud of him, but also of Jaco and all our other match officials,” said Mr Alexander.
Finally, Mr Alexander paid tribute to former Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, who received the International Rugby Players’ Association’s Special Merit Award.
De Villiers, who played 109 Tests for South Africa, brought the curtain down on a 13-year international career after breaking his jaw at Rugby World Cup 2015. He captained the Boks in 37 Tests and scored 27 tries for the Springboks.
“When people speak of Jean, he is always referred to as a gentleman and a true ambassador for our country - and I fully agree with those sentiments,” said Alexander.
“It’s humbling to see one of our finest players honoured by World Rugby in this way and he’s fully deserving of this award as he has represented the best values of our game in many countries during his illustrious career.”
Also on Monday night, New Zealand scooped the three main awards - the All Blacks were named Team of the Year, Steve Hansen was crowned Coach of the Year and Beauden Barrett was named the Player of the Year.
World Rugby awards for 2016 announced in London on Sunday:
Men's Player of the Year - Beauden Barrett (NZL)
Women's Player of the Year - Sarah Hunter (ENG)
Team of the Year - New Zealand
Coach of the Year - Steve Hansen (NZL)
Breakthrough Player of the Year - Maro Itoje (ENG)
Men's Sevens Player of the Year - Seabelo Senatla (RSA)
Women's Sevens Player of the Year - Charlotte Caslick (AUS)
Referee Award - Alhambra Nievas (ESP) and Rasta Rasivhenge (RSA)
Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service - Syd Millar
Award for Character - Rugby Opens Borders, Austrian Rugby Union IRPA Special Merit Award - Jean de Villiers (RSA)
IRPA Try of the Year - Jamie Heaslip (IRL) against Italy in the Six Nations
Olympic recognition - Fiji and Australia