Cape Town - Two Springboks have been nominated for the prestigious 2018 World Rugby Player of the Year award.
Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and hooker Malcolm Marx are two of five nominees for this year's award.
The other are Beauden Barrett, Rieko Ioane (both New Zealand) and Ireland's Johnny Sexton.
The winner will be known at the World Rugby Awards at the Salle des Etoiles in Monte Carlo on November 25.
De Klerk, who plays his rugby out Sale Sharks in England, has had a resurgent year in Springbok colours and has been at the heart of the South African revival under coach Rassie Erasmus.
Marx, meanwhile, is considered one of the best hookers in world rugby today with his ability to make turnovers a highlight of his game.
The shortlist was finalised by the World Rugby Awards panel which comprises Rugby World Cup winners Richie McCaw, John Smit, George Gregan, Maggie Alphonsi and former England coach Clive Woodward alongside Brian O’Driscoll, Fabien Galthié and Agustín Pichot.
WORLD RUGBY MEN’S XVS PLAYER OF THE YEAR NOMINEES:
BEAUDEN BARRETT (NEW ZEALAND)
The 27-year-old could become the first player to win the prestigious accolade three years in a row after another impressive season in the All Blacks No 10 jersey. Barrett has scored seven tries in his eight Tests in 2018, six of them in the Bledisloe Cup series against Australia, including a record four amid a 30-point haul at Eden Park. The attack-minded flyhalf, who is equally at home at fullback, has continued to torment defences with his instinctive play this year, helping New Zealand win the series with France and defend the Rugby Championship title.
FAF DE KLERK (SOUTH AFRICA)
The scrumhalf returned to the Springbok jersey after missing the 2017 Test season and quickly made himself indispensable to new coach Rassie Erasmus, showing why rugby is a sport for all with his ferocious defence and fearless play despite his small stature. The 27-year-old played virtually every minute of South Africa’s Rugby Championship campaign, scoring tries against Argentina and Australia and proving a constant thorn in the side of his opposite numbers across his nine starts.
RIEKO IOANE (NEW ZEALAND)
Ioane, the youngest of the nominees at only 21, is shortlisted for the second year in a row, having also been named World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year in 2017. The All Blacks wing is the top tryscorer in Test rugby in 2018, crossing for 11 tries in his eight starts to take his career tally to an impressive 22 tries in 21 Tests. Blessed with quick feet and power, Ioane’s quick acceleration means he doesn’t need much space to go around - or through - defenders.
MALCOLM MARX (SOUTH AFRICA)
South Africa’s dynamic ball-carrying hooker has played the fewest tests of the nominees with only six, having missed the Wales Test and series win over England in June through injury. With five starts and a try in the win over New Zealand in Wellington, the 24-year-old has picked up where he left off in 2017, combining athleticism, power, pace and a wide skill-set in attack with the breakdown skills to turnover many a ball for South Africa.
JOHNNY SEXTON (IRELAND)
The oldest of the nominees at 33, Sexton has been at the heart of Ireland’s climb to second in the World Rugby Rankings on the back off a Six Nations Grand Slam and first series win in Australia for 39 years. The veteran flyhalf, a calming presence in the Irish backline, began the year by kicking a last-minute drop goal to secure victory over France and has started seven of his eight tests, coming off the bench in Ireland’s only loss to date.
Previous World Rugby men’s XVs Player of the Year Award winners:
2017 – Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
2016 – Beauden Barrett (New Zealand)
2015 – Dan Carter (New Zealand)
2014 – Brodie Retallick (New Zealand)
2013 – Kieran Read (New Zealand)
2012 – Dan Carter (New Zealand)
2011 – Thierry Dusautoir (France)
2010 – Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
2009 – Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
2008 – Shane Williams (Wales)
2007 – Bryan Habana (South Africa)
2006 – Richie McCaw (New Zealand)
2005 – Dan Carter (New Zealand)
2004 – Schalk Burger (South Africa)
2003 – Jonny Wilkinson (England)
2002 – Fabien Galthié (France)
2001 – Keith Wood (Ireland)