Frans Malherbe is the unlikely but most deserving recipient of SA Rugby’s Player of the Year award after his consistent performances for the DHL Stormers and the Springboks, writes MARK KEOHANE.
Writing for TimesLIVE, Keohane discusses the 2023 nominees and praises the star quality and contributions of World Cup-winning quintet Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi and Damian Willemse.
While acknowledging all of them as deserving winners, Keohane singles out Malherbe as his least expected but preferred winner.
He notes that tighthead props often go unnoticed in major awards, but Malherbe’s reliability, lack of injuries, and on-field exploits make him a standout choice.
Despite the popularity of other nominees, especially Etzebeth, who received unanimous votes in an SARugbymag.co.za poll, Keohane advocates for recognising Malherbe’s selfless excellence.
“The best tighthead props in the world are as sought after as the most influential No 10s and the likes of Malherbe could comfortably command one of the biggest contracts in the game.” Keohane writes.
“But they seldom win the big individual awards as people tend to view them more as the piano movers and not the piano players.
“Malherbe knows how to move a piano and provide the set-piece platform, but he can also play that piano and he would easily be the most understated of all South Africa’s World Cup heroes, in 2019 and 2023.
“He doesn’t play a poor game and I haven’t seen him come second to any loosehead in the one-on-one scrum battle.”