JOHANNESBURG — The insurance company Brightrock has quickly established itself as a brand synonymous with rugby. In January 2016, Brightrock signed an associate sponsorship deal with the Stormers and Western Province. This year it partnered with MyPlayers to establish the Brightrock Players Choice Awards which recognises players’ excellence. What makes these awards unique is that the players themselves are involved in nominating and voting for the winners. The big winner on the night was not too much of a surprise. Stormers captain Siya Kolisi was rewarded for his good form and great sportsmanship with two awards and a nomination in a third category. This was richly deserved as Kolisi came back from injury to captain his franchise and secure a berth in the Springbok side, missing only one Test match this year due to the birth of his second child. Ask any player and they’ll acknowledge that it’s nice to win an award, but it’s an honour to be recognised by your peers. Which is why Siya Kolisi will undoubtedly cherish being the inaugural winner of the Players’ Player of the Year award. – David O’Sullivan
Statement from Brightrock
Professional South African rugby players honoured and acknowledged their peers at the star-studded inaugural BrightRock Players Choice Awards held at the Sandton Convention Centre. Siya Kolisi was named the 2017 Players’ Player of the Year, following in the footsteps of past rugby legends who have received this much-prized accolade.
The other winners named on the night were: Malcom Marx as Defender of the Year; Rosko Specman as Backline Player of the Year; Siya Kolisi as Forward of the Year, Steven Kitshoff as Best off the Bench; and Makazole Mapimpi, who received the LoveChange Award for the player that has made great strides in his rugby career over the past year. These players were voted the winners by rugby players from the fourteen professional rugby unions in South Africa. Each winning player received R10 000 to pledge to the charity of his choice.
Francois Venter walked away with the Fans’ Choice Award, the only award voted for by the public, and R50 000 for his chosen charity. He teamed up with celebrity partner, Bouwer Bosch, to campaign for the award on the BrightRock Players Choice Awards Facebook page. The R50 000 prize money won by Venter will be donated to Liefde Wen in aid of rugby development in rural Transkei.
The players were not only involved with the nomination and voting process for the seven award categories, but also in shaping the vibrant and somewhat unconventional awards evening format. The event, the first-ever awards for professional rugby players by professional rugby players, was designed by the players themselves to precisely match their needs and wants when it comes to recognising excellence on the rugby field. Provider of needs-matched life insurance, BrightRock, and MyPlayers, the South African rugby players’ organisation, hosted the evening.
The awards evening was attended by players, celebrities and fans from all over the country. TV presenter and actress, Boity Thulo, and former Springbok, Jean de Villiers, acted as event MCs, and celebrity beatboxer, Morgan Beatbox, local band, Rubber Duc, and singer, Yollandi Nortjie, performed during the event, which was also broadcast live on SuperSport. On stage to help hand over the awards were well-known celebrities including Sureshnie Rider, Sky Tshabalala, Bouwer Bosch, Stuart Taylor, Eloise Cupido and cast members from Getroud met Rugby.
The evening took a surprise turn in the form of hidden talent displays by the players, where Puma Hugo Kloppers impressed with his singing and guitar skills, and Dillyn Leyds, Teboho Mohoje and Trevor Nyakane also wowed the audience with a dance number. There was even a “Dub Smash” number featuring some of South Africa’s best loved rugby players singing along to popular tunes.
But it wasn’t just the players, performers and presenters who got to shine at the awards. In a heart-warming gesture, the Springbok Player Group donated R50 000 out of the players’ collective income in support of Lifa Hlongwa, a talented young player who sustained serious damage to his spinal cord in August this year while playing for the Northwood Crusaders in a match against Amanzimtoti. The funds were donated to the Lifa Hlongwa #OneStepAtATime crowdfunding campaign, which was started by the Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players Fund.
Elma Smit, marketing manager for MyPlayers, commented: “At MyPlayers we’re very passionate about creating more opportunities like these. For players to give back to causes close to their hearts, to get to know fans better and to celebrate the excellence of their peers. The organisation, owned collectively by South Africa’s professional rugby players, enables rugby players to do what they do best, while we take care of their collective needs and interests behind the scenes. We would like to congratulate Siya on this highest of honours, as far as we are concerned. Siya was also recently also selected by the directors of MyPlayers to serve on the board from 2018.”
BrightRock executive director, Suzanne Stevens, echoed Smit’s congratulations and added that the evening tied in with BrightRock’s unique needs-matched insurance offering. “We’re excited to have partnered with MyPlayers and the players themselves, helping them craft a needs-matched awards event where they got to decide about every aspect – from the awards categories to the winners, to the format of the event – even the entertainment. This is very much aligned with BrightRock’s philosophy, which enables every client to precisely design their own life insurance solution that matches their specific individual needs, and in the process extract better value for money – in effect putting change back in our clients’ pockets. Now that’s the kind of change we love!”
The BrightRock Players Choice Awards Categories
All nominations were compiled by the MyPlayers Board, their Trustees and player representatives and the winners of each category (except the Fans’ Choice category) were selected by the players.
|Category||Winners & Runners up|
|Defender of the year||Winner: Malcolm Marx
Runners up*: Jean-Luc du Preez, Siya Kolisi, Philip Snyman
|Forward Player of the year||Winner: Siya Kolisi
Runners up: Chris Dry, Franco Mostert, Warren Whiteley
|Backline Player of the year||Winner: Rosko Specman
Runners up: Ross Cronje, Dillyn Leyds, Mathrin Simmers
|Best off the bench||Winner: Steven Kitshoff
Runners up: Faf de Klerk, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Akker van der Merwe
|The #LoveChange Award – for the most-improved player over the past year – a true change agent on his way up||Winner: Makazole Mapimpi
Runners up: Lionel Cronje, Sbu Nkosi, Jan Serfontein
|The Fans’ Choice Award – as voted by the fans||Winner: Francois Venter
Runners up: Siya Kolisi, Seabelo Senatla, Curwin Bosch, Courtnall Skosan
|The Players’ Player of the Year – the flagship award of the evening for the player selected as the best player of the year, as chosen by his peers||Winner: Siya Kolisi
Runners up: Makazole Mapimpi, Rosko Specman, Warren Whiteley
- The runners up in each category are listed in no particular order.