Springbok wing Aphiwe Dyantyi won the Breakthrough Player of the Year award at World Rugby’s annual prize giving in Monaco on Sunday night.
The 24-year-old was visibly stunned when named in a category where he was pitted against Ireland wing Jordan Larmour (Ireland)‚ and All Black prop Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Dyantyi follows an illustrious list of winners of the same award since its inception in 2015.
All Black wing Rieko Ioane won in 2017‚ England lock Maro Itoje (2016) and All Black wing Nehe Milner-Skudder (2015).
The speedy Bok winger marked his Test debut with a try against England in June and didn’t look back.
He started in 13 of South Africa’s 14 Tests in 2018‚ scoring six tries‚ including braces against Argentina and in the win over world champions New Zealand in Wellington.
Upon receiving the award‚ Dyantyi described his year as “more than a roller-coaster”.
“I’ve been truly blessed in so many ways‚ with the people around me‚ who have helped me in the last few years – it’s really amazing‚” Dyantyi said.
“Being part of the Springboks‚ representing our country – it doesn’t get any better. I’m very honoured as I never imagined I would ever be the one sitting here‚ receiving an award such as this.
“I just want to keep on challenging myself to keep on improving and hopefully making a difference for our country‚ but also on in someone else’s life‚ who will see my story as an inspiration to do something great out there. That is my ultimate goal.”
SA Rugby president Mark Alexander heaped praise on Dyantyi: “Aphiwe has been sensational since making the step up to senior provincial rugby and after a superb debut season for the Lions in Super Rugby‚ he was deservedly called up to the Springbok squad‚” said Alexander.
“Despite his limited experience at international level‚ Aphiwe never looked out of place in the Springbok jersey and he made an immediate impact‚ scoring a try on debut for the Boks against England in June.
“It was his two tries in Wellington though‚ when the Boks beat the All Blacks in New Zealand for the first time in nine years‚ that will be remembered the best for his superb debut Test season.
“We are all very proud of him and can’t wait to see more of the same in 2019.”
South Africa’s other nominees – Faf de Klerk and Malcolm Marx in the World Player of the Year category – lost out to Ireland flyhalf Jonny Sexton in the main award.
Sexton became only the second Irishman after hooker Keith Wood to win the award. Sexton was also the fourth flyhalf in succession to scoop rugby’s biggest individual prize following Beauden Barrett in 2017 and 2016 and Dan Carter in 2015.
Ireland won the Grand Slam and Sexton’s club Leinster won the Pro 14 and the European Champions Cup.
Ireland also beat the Wallabies 2-1 in Australia in June and followed that up with an undefeated November Test schedule‚ which included a first win over the All Blacks in Dublin. Sexton was central to it all.
Sexton‚ in a statement read out by Ireland captain Rory Best after losing his voice‚ said: “Thank you to my team-mates and coaches.
“If a No.10 wins an award like this‚ it is due to the team around him and his coaches making his job easier. We have some of the best coaches in the world and are led superbly by Rory Best.
“I’d also like to thank my wife Laura who has been with me from the start. We’ve three young kids and she does absolutely everything to allow me to concentrate on the day job.
“I wouldn’t have been able to have the season I’ve had without her. Thank you so much‚ it is an incredible honour. I look at the other nominees and I admire all of them. Any of them would have been a worthy winner.”
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt was named coach of the year and Ireland were team of the year.
Full list of World Rugby Awards winners:
World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year — Johnny Sexton (Ireland)
World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year — Jessy Trémoulière (France)
World Rugby Team of the Year — Ireland
World Rugby Coach of the Year — Joe Schmidt (Ireland)
World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year — Aphiwe Dyantyi (South Africa)
World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year — Perry Baker (USA)
World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year — Michaela Blyde (New Zealand)
World Rugby Referee Award — Angus Gardner (Australia)
Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service — Yoshiro Mori (Japan)
Award for Character — Doddie Weir (Scotland)
Spirit of Rugby Award — Jamie Armstrong‚ The Clan (Scotland)
IRP Special Merit Award — Stephen Moore (Australia) and DJ Forbes (New Zealand)
IRP Try of the Year — Brodie Retallick (New Zealand v Aus)
Craig Ray – TimesLIVE