Rugby’s finest honoured at the 5th annual BrightRock Players Choice Awards

Cheslin Kolbe walks away as Players’ Player of the Year, Lusanda Dumke nabs most improved player, and Duane Vermeulen secures the Fans’ Choice Award

At a virtual ceremony held today, the 5th annual BrightRock Players Choice Awards in partnership with MyPlayers revealed South African rugby’s top professional players in 2021, as voted for by their peers. The awards, held for the players by the players, aim to celebrate South Africa’s top professional rugby talent, acknowledging those who have not only excelled in the sport but have also embodied rugby’s indomitable spirit over the past year. The winners are true ambassadors for their sporting code, having displayed characteristics such as commitment, resilient determination, and pure talent during one of rugby’s most unpredictable seasons.

Highlights of this year’s awards

In total, 30 players were nominated across seven award categories. After a short absence from the 2020 awards, the popular Fans’ Choice category made a welcome return this year, allowing fans to have their say. The winner of this year’s Fans’ Choice Award, Duane Vermeulen, has secured a boost of R30,000 for Rugby’s caring hands, The Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players’ Fund. Another exciting feature of this year’s ceremony was the nomination of two professional women’s rugby players, with Lusanda Dumke receiving the LoveChange Award for Most Improved Player, just a month after being appointed captain of the Springbok Women’s team.

Lusanda Dumke said of her remarkable accomplishment, ” It means a lot to me as an individual player, but it also means a lot to professional women’s rugby as a whole. This victory, in my opinion, demonstrates that we, as South Africa’s professional women’s rugby team, are doing a fantastic job. We are grateful for all of the wonderful support we have received in recent months and can assure South Africans that this is only the beginning for us. We are already looking forward to achieving more victories for South African women’s rugby at next year’s awards!”

This year’s nominees and winners represent a diverse mix of players from around the country, which showcases just how strong South Africa’s pool of rugby talent is.

“We are proud to continue our partnership with BrightRock. Without them, these awards would not have been possible. We are thrilled with the outcome of this year’s awards and the opportunity to recognise and reward the unrivalled talent that South African rugby has to offer. With the past year having been such a challenging one for us all, it’s been especially gratifying to be able to come together and acknowledge the amazing passion that these players have for their sport and their teams. A huge congratulations to all the winners and nominees; may you all go from strength to strength in the year ahead,” says Eugene Henning, Chief Executive Officer of MyPlayers, the professional rugby players’ organisation.

Here are the winners for the 5th Annual BrightRock Players Choice Awards 2021, brought to you in partnership with MyPlayers:

Forward Player of the Year

  • Siya Kolisi (Springboks | Sharks)

Backline Player of the Year

  • Damian de Allende (Springboks)

Defender of the Year

  • Lukhanyo Am (Springboks | Sharks)

Best off the Bench

  • Trevor Nyakane (Springboks | Bulls)

LoveChange Most Improved Player

  • Lusanda Dumke (Springbok Women | Border)

Fans’ Choice Award

  • Duane Vermeulen (Springboks)

Players’ Player of the Year

  • Cheslin Kolbe (Springboks)

All winners were selected by the players. A memorable moment of the evening occurred when South Africa’s professional rugby players donated R140 000 from their collective income to the Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players’ Fund via MyPlayers. This fund helps rugby players who have suffered catastrophic head, neck, or spinal cord injuries on the field. Professional rugby players have contributed a total of R170 000 to rugby’s caring hands through this donation to the Player’s Fund and the money pledged by Vermeulen.

Fans can catch the BrightRock Players Choice Awards broadcast on SuperSport tonight

While today’s virtual event was an exclusive, by-invitation-only affair, rugby-lovers – and anyone who loves the celebrity power, glitz, and glam of an entertainment-filled awards show – can watch the event on SuperSport Channel 201 and 211 at 20H00 this evening, 23 September 2021. Hosted by Siv Ngesi and Nambitha Ben-Mazwi, not to mention the who’s who of South African rugby, it promises to be well worth the watch.

Speaking on behalf of needs-matched insurer BrightRock, Suzanne Stevens: Deputy CEO, also extended warm congratulations to the winners. “This year, more than any other, these winners have shown us all that it is possible to thrive and win in times of change. By playing the bounce and harnessing the momentum that comes with change, these players epitomise what lies at the heart of BrightRock’s ‘Love Change’ philosophy. That we all have the capacity to respond to the unexpected with resilience and agility, and successfully navigate change, whether on the field or in life. The Awards are a wonderful way to thank all of SA’s professional rugby players for inspiring us!”

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