The 2012 SA Rugby Awards
With another year of excitement, fun and surprises in the rugby world coming to an end, we take a look back on the last 12 months, rewarding the good and bad in equal measure with SA Rugby's end-of-year awards.
It's a tongue-in-cheek look at the past year so please don't take it seriously. At least, not all of it!
First, the serious...
International Player of the Year: Conrad Smith. The centre's value to the Hurricanes and the All Blacks' cannot be underestimated. He hardly ever played a bad game for either side.
South African Player of the Year: Bryan Habana. The veteran wing was back to his best and impressed for Western Province, the Stormers and South Africa. Despite missing out on the Boks' end-of-year tour to Europe, Habana did enough throughout the year to take this one.
Rookie of the year: Eben Etzebeth. He only turned 21 in October but made a huge impact on the domestic and international scene and ran Habana close for the SA Player of the Year award. Played with maturity beyond his years and it's delightfully reassuring to know that, as a lock, his best years are still ahead of him.
Comeback team of the year: Western Province. After 11 barren years, 2012 saw Western Province winning the Currie Cup as well the Vodacom Cup trophies.
Comeback player of the year: Nathan Sharpe. The Wallaby lock failed to make the matchday squad when his country played the All Blacks in last year's Rugby World Cup semi-final. Although that appeared to be the writing on the wall for the veteran he won the John Eales Medal as Australia's Player of the Year and captained his country during the latter stages of the Rugby Championship and their end-of-year tour to Europe before retiring.
International Coach of the Year: Steve Hansen. Deserves plenty of credit for keeping New Zealand at the top of the world standings after taking over the reins from Graham Henry. Unlike previous World Cup winners the All Blacks, under Hansen's guidance, also managed to avoid the dreaded World Cup hangover.
South African Coach of the Year: Allister Coetzee. The Western Province coach deserves plaudits for adding an attacking dimension to his side's game after they came in for heavy criticism for their conservative style while playing under the guise of the Stormers in Super Rugby.
Rugby Championship Player of the Year: Kieran Read. The All Blacks number eight hardly put a foot wrong as the world champions won the inaugural southern hemisphere four nations tournament.
Super Rugby Player of the Year: Conrad Smith. The Hurricanes centre showed once again why he is rated the best number 13 in the world. As the elder statesman in a relatively young team, Smith was the glue that held the Wellington-based team together after they lost several experienced players at the end of last season.
Currie Cup Player of the Year: Willie le Roux. After impressing for the Cheetahs during the Super Rugby tournament, Le Roux delivered one superb performance after the other for Griquas in South Africa's premier domestic competition. Le Roux's attacking abilities was a joy to behold and he will be one of the first names on Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske's team-sheet during Super Rugby matches.
Super Rugby Try of the Year: Joe Pietersen (Stormers v Highlanders). After running onto a pass from Gio Aplon, just outside the Highlanders' 22, Pietersen beats the cover defence with a beautifully weighted chip kick before regathering and scoring.
Currie Cup Try of the Year: Juan de Jongh (Western Province v Sharks - Currie Cup Final). The diminutive centre's moment of brilliance will long be remembered by the Cape Town-based side's supporters.
Match of the year: Blues 34 Chiefs 41 (Super Rugby Round 15). This game was a superb advertisement for the game. End-to-end action, drama and lots of tries with Chiefs wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma leading the way by crossing the whitewash on four occasions.
Outstanding performance of the year: New Zealand 60 Ireland 0 (Third Test in Hamilton). Ireland skipper Brian O'Driscoll said he was "embarrassed" after his side were annihilated by the men in black who ran in nine tries in the match.
And then the not so serious...
Best celebration award: Juan de Jongh. Doing it Gangnam style after his try for Western Province in the Currie Cup Final against the Sharks in Durban.
Upset of the Year: Currie Cup Final. Every person and their pet was betting on a Sharks win in front of their home crowd, but Western Province proved everybody wrong by beating the heavily favoured hosts to end an 11-year trophy drought.
Hero to zero award: The Lions. After winning the 2011 Currie Cup title, John Mitchell's pride finished last in this year's Super Rugby competition. As a result, they were relegated from next year’s competition - making way for the Kings.
Chokers award: The Sharks. Beaten in two finals - Super Rugby and the Currie Cup. Enough said.
Banana skin award: New Zealand's 18-18 draw with an injury-ravaged Wallabies outfit earns the All Blacks this award after the world champions' tilt at breaking Lithuania's world record of 18 consecutive victories came to an end.
Globe trotter award: The Sharks. The Durban-based side first flew to Brisbane to upset the Reds in the play-offs, then to Cape Town to shock the Stormers in the semi-finals before flying to Hamilton for Super Rugby's finale with the Chiefs - all in the space of three weeks.
Over the hill award: Marius Joubert. Fondly remembered by Bok fans for his hat-trick against the All Blacks in 2004, the 33-year-old continues to soldier on despite spending the majority of his time on bench duty for the Sharks.
The 'Rebel without a Cause' award: Quade Cooper. The Reds and Australia fly-half deserves this one for his rant at the Wallabies set-up. Cooper alleged that the "toxic" environment within the Australian team was "destroying" him and that he is only allowed to play exciting rugby from February to May when is with the Reds.
The 'What were you thinking' award: Dean Greyling. Several candidates for this one, but the Springbok prop's brain implosion during a Test against New Zealand in Dunedin wins it hands down. Greyling received a two-week suspension after he smashed his forearm into the face of All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw at a ruck.
The 'Will you please hold our hand' award: Southern Kings. The Port Elizabeth-based frachise are looking for all the help they can get as they enter into their first season of Super Rugby. The Kings are hoping SARU will change its rule regarding the number of foreign players allowed in the tournament. SARU currently allow only two foreign players in local Super Rugby squads but the Kings have already signed four!
The 'Gone but not forgotten' award: Sonny Bill Williams. The former Chiefs and All Blacks centre's brief stint as a union player is set to end when he returns to rugby league in 2013. That's a real shame as the multi-talented sportsman was coming into his own as one of the world's leading midfielders.
The Peter de Villiers award for saying the wrong things: David Campese. It takes a special effort to beat P Divvy to his own award but the Wallabies legend certainly did just that with these comments he tweeted about a female rugby journalist. "Why does the smh get a girl to write about rugby. Growden who was a great jornio and now we have someone who has no idea about the game!"