Cape Town - SA Rugby president Mark Alexander praised Springbok wing Aphiwe Dyantyi for scooping the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year Award a glittering function in Monaco on Sunday evening.
WATCH: Dyantyi in disbelief after winning World Rugby award
In doing so, the 24-year-old Dyantyi became the first South African to win this prestigious award for players in their debut international season.
The speedy Bok winger marked his Test debut with a try against England in June and hasn’t looked back, starting in 13 of South Africa’s 14 Tests in 2018 and scoring six tries, including braces against Argentina and in the win over world champions New Zealand in Wellington.
“Aphiwe has been sensational since making the step up to senior provincial rugby and after a superb debut season for the Lions in Super Rugby, he was deservedly called up to the Springbok squad,” said Alexander.
“Despite his limited experience at international level, Aphiwe never looked out of place in the Springbok jersey and he made an immediate impact, scoring a try on debut for the Boks against England in June.
“It was his two tries in Wellington though, when the Boks beat the All Blacks in New Zealand for the first time in nine years, that will be remembered the best for his superb debut Test season.
“He finished as the joint top try-scorer in the Rugby Championship, which is a wonderful achievement for a rookie Test player. We are all very proud of him and can’t wait to see more of the same in 2019.”
Upon receiving the award, Dyantyi described his year as “more than a roller-coaster”.
“I’ve been truly blessed in so many ways, with the people around me, who have helped me in the last few years - it’s really amazing,” Dyantyi said.
“Being part of the Springboks, representing our country - it doesn’t get any better. I’m very honoured as I never imagined I would ever be the one sitting here, receiving an award such as this.
“I just want to keep on challenging myself to keep on improving and hopefully making a difference for our country, but also on in someone else’s life, who will see my story as an inspiration to do something great out there. That is my ultimate goal.”
Alexander also congratulated the other South African nominees - Malcolm Marx and Faf de Klerk (Men’s Player of the Year), Rassie Erasmus (Coach of the Year), the Springboks (Team of the Year).
“We are happy with the resurgence of the Springboks under Rassie Erasmus and his coaching team and we believe we are heading in the right direction as part of our preparation for the Rugby World Cup in 2019, as is evident by these nominations,” said Alexander.
“I would also like to congratulate Ireland’s Johnny Sexton (World Rugby Men’s Player of the Year) and Joe Schmidt (World Rugby Coach of the Year), as well as the Irish team (World Rugby Team of the Year) for their awards, which were just reward after a magnificent season.
“The same applies to Jessy Trémoulière of France (World Rugby Women’s Player of the Year), Perry Baker of the USA (Men’s Sevens Player of the Year) and Michaela Blyde of New Zealand (Men’s Sevens Player of the Year), and all the other people who were honoured on Sunday evening.”
Full list of World Rugby Awards winners:
World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year - Johnny Sexton (Ireland)
World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year, in association with Mastercard - Jessy Trémoulière (France)
World Rugby Team of the Year - Ireland
World Rugby Coach of the Year - Joe Schmidt (Ireland)
World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year - Aphiwe Dyantyi (South Africa)
World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year - Perry Baker (USA)
World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year - Michaela Blyde (New Zealand)
World Rugby Referee Award - Angus Gardner (Australia)
Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service - Yoshiro Mori (Japan)
Award for Character - Doddie Weir (Scotland)
Spirit of Rugby Award - Jamie Armstrong, The Clan (Scotland)
IRP Special Merit Award - Stephen Moore (Australia) and DJ Forbes (New Zealand)
IRP Try of the Year - Brodie Retallick (New Zealand v Australia)