WESTERN Province flank Schalk Burger picked up the South African Player of the Year award for a second time when he was named the best of 2011 at Gold Reef City last night.
Burger, 28, who won the award in 2004 – the year he was also named the World Player of the Year – was rewarded for his stellar form in both Super Rugby and at test level this season.
Burger received the good news after spending the day on the Serengeti Golf Course as part of the launch of the SA Sports and Arts Hall of Fame, into which he is sure to be inducted in the near future.
Despite a poor year for the Boks, losing three out of four Tri-Nations matches, and suffering elimination at the quarterfinal stage of the World Cup, Burger’s performances were consistently superb.
He became only the fifth player to win the title more than once, following in the footsteps of Naas Botha (who won it four times), Uli Schmidt, Bryan Habana and Fourie du Preez (who all won it twice).
Burger skippered the Stormers to the Super 15 play-offs after they finished top of the South African Conference. He sustained a severe thumb injury midway through the year, but returned to play an influential role in the Springboks’ ultimately doomed Rugby World Cup campaign.
The Golden Lions picked up three awards, with John Mitchell taking the Coach of the Year award and captain Josh Strauss the Currie Cup Player of the Year gong as well as the Team of the Year accolade.
Sharks utility back Pat Lambie was named Young Player of the Year, beating off the challenge of fellow Springbok François Hougaard. Cecil Afrika was named Sevens Player of the Year.
The most important winner of the evening as far as players were concerned, was the Players’ Player of the Year award.
That went to Sharks hooker Bismarck du Plessis, which gave an unequivocal statement of the value his teammates at both provincial and test level placed on his performances through the season.
Outgoing Bok captain and vice- captain John Smit and Victor Matfield were also given special mentions for their outstanding contribution to South African rugby.