Zas, Nortje pick up URC awards

DHL Stormers wing Leolin Zas and Vodacom Bulls lock Ruan Nortje have become the first South Africans to have their efforts recognised with the Vodacom United Rugby Championship end-of-season awards.

Zas scored 11 tries over the course of the regular season to end the campaign at the top of the charts and pick up the Top Try-Scorer award.

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Nortje, meanwhile, took home the Ironman award, which recognises the player who has racked up the most minutes over the 18 rounds of the URC.

Zas held on to his position at the top of the URC try-scoring charts in the face of some late competition from Benetton’s Rhyno Smith.

Smith claimed seven tries in his last three appearances to pull level with Zas on 10 at the summit.

However, Zas – who scored at least one try in each of his first six URC outings – grabbed the Stormers’ first try in their round-18 victory over the Scarlets to nudge back in front and claim the prize.

The 23-year-old Nortje racked up 1,394 minutes on the field of play and was one of only 14 players to feature in all 18 of their team’s matches.

Nortje scored one try as the Bulls achieved a fourth-place finish in the regular season and was second to Glasgow Warriors’ Richie Gray for lineout steals (9).

The Bulls dominated the top five when it came to minutes played, with Marcell Coetzee (1,296) third and Madosh Tambwe (1,295) fourth.

Stormers centre Ruhan Nel (1,339) was second with Cape Town colleague Manie Libbok (1,264) in fifth.

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Marcell Coetzee (Bulls) and Seabelo Senatla (Stormers) finished joint third on nine, with Edwill van der Merwe (Emirates Lions), Johan Grobbelaar (Bulls) and Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets) another try further back.

They are the first South African winners to be announced as part of the end-of-season awards, with Ulster’s Alan O’Connor (Tackle Machine) and Ospreys pair Jac Morgan (Turnover King) and Gareth Anscombe (Gilbert Golden Boot) having scooped the three accolades already handed out.

The Dream Team and the Next-Gen Star of the Season will be announced later this week while Vodacom Fans’ Player of the Season, the Loch Lomond Coach of the Season and Players’ Player of the Season will be crowned in the buildup to the grand final.

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Dylan Jack