Handré Pollard is one of five nominees for the SA Player of the Year award.
Pollard enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2014, claiming the World Rugby Junior Player of the Year award after leading the Junior Boks to the final of the World Championship in New Zealand earlier this year, before making his Test debut in the final June Test against Scotland. Pollard later played a crucial role in the Boks' victory over the All Blacks at Ellis Park, grabbing a brace as the Boks ended their three-year drought against the world champions.
Should he take home the award, he will be the youngest player to do so at just 20 years of age, edging out Schalk Burger and Naas Botha, who both were 21 years old when they were proclaimed South Africa's best. He will, however, face tough competition for the award, with World Rugby Player of the Year nominees Willie le Roux and Duane Vermeulen also part of the shortlist, alongside young loose forwards Marcell Coetzee and Nizaam Carr. None of the five nominees have won South African rugby's most prestigious prize before.
The winner will be decided by a public vote, along with the winners of the Young Player of the Year and Team of the Year.
Pollard and Carr have also been nominated in the Young Player category, along with Cheslin Kolbe, Seabelo Senatla and Springbok centre Jan Serfontein. The Junior Springboks, Springboks, Springbok Sevens, Western Province and Golden Lions have been nominated as Team of the Year.
'It is again very pleasing that we are able to give our rugby fans a voice in the game, and the Saru Player of the Year Awards is an ideal platform to do so,' said Saru CEO Jurie Roux following the announcement. 'The last two years proved that supporters have strong opinions on who should win and that feedback was great, hence the decision to make the public part of the polling process again.
'The awards are a highlight on the South African rugby calendar, and involving the fans and coaches more directly will no doubt add to the prestige of the event.'
The closing date for public vote is Friday, 12 December, with all the winners to be announced at a gala event on 8 February in Midrand.
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images