• Vermeulen named SA Rugby’s best

    Springbok No 8 and Vodacom Bulls captain Duane Vermeulen was named as the 2020 SA Rugby Player of the Year on Thursday.

    Vermeulen walked off with two awards, including the overall gong for SA Rugby Player of the Year, while the Bulls, champions of Super Rugby Unlocked and the Currie Cup, won in almost every other category.

    Stedman Gans, who made a successful transition from the Blitzboks to star for the Vodacom Bulls after the World Rugby Sevens Series was cancelled, was named Springbok Sevens Player of the Year, for his role as the Blitzboks’ won two tournaments out of six to finish second overall in the standings.

    Wandisile Simelane, a former Junior Springbok star who got his first taste of senior rugby in the green and gold in the successful Springbok Showdown before going on to star for the Emirates and Xerox Lions in the local competitions, was named Young Player of the Year.

    The 34-year-old Vermeulen, who led the Bulls to two titles last season – including the Carling Currie Cup for the first time since 2009 – also won the Super Rugby/Unlocked Player of the Year award for 2020.

    It was therefore no surprise that the Bulls were named Team of the Year and their director of rugby, Jake White, was Coach of the Year.

    Cornal Hendricks capped a brilliant season by walking away with the accolade for Currie Cup Player of the Year, and Jaco Peyper was named the Referee of the Year.

    ‘It was a very tough season but Duane was superb – not only on the field, where his performances were on par with the very high standard we’ve become accustomed to from him, but he also led the Vodacom Bulls with aplomb as our teams had to navigate numerous new curved balls and challenges,’ said Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby.

    ‘I would like to congratulate Jake and the Vodacom Bulls on their season, as well as Wandisile, Cornal, Stedman and Jaco, but I also have to acknowledge all our teams and players who worked tirelessly under difficult circumstances to ensure that we saw some rugby on local soil in 2020.

    ‘A lot of hard work went into making the season a reality and I would like to thank everyone who played a part in making it happen, especially our broadcast partner and sponsors, who stuck with us through tumultuous times.

    ‘The pandemic has been disruptive to people from all walks of life and apart from the hard work done in training, first at home and later back at their team bases, it was heartening to see our players rolling up their sleeves and also helping fellow South Africans who are not as fortunate. We saw yet again that we are stronger, together.’

    FULL LIST OF WINNERS

    Photo: Anton Geyser/Gallo Images