STAR centre Tiger Mangweni was crowned EP Kings player of the year at a lavish rugby awards banquet at the NMMU Indoor Centre on Saturday night.
Mangweni was the backbone of EP’s unbeaten 16- match streak in the Currie Cup First Division and the popular Kings vice-captain received a standing ovation when he accepted the coveted award.
Explosive on attack and solid on defence, Mangweni played a pivotal role in EP’s successful First Division campaign which saw them lift the title by beating the Pumas 26-25 in a dramatic final.
The combative centre was also one of the stars on Friday when the Kings put up a gutsy showing as they went down 16-6 to the Free State Cheetahs in their second leg Currie Cup Premier Division promotion match.
It proved to be a night of double celebration for Mangweni because he also scooped the award for being the union’s most valuable player.
The rookie of the year award went to hard-working flank Cornell du Preez, who enjoyed a magnificent debut season in senior rugby
Du Preez, 21, played with fire throughout a long season and his defence and rampaging runs on attack were a vital ingredient as EP swept all before them in the First Division.
Samoan international Paul Perez, arguably the biggest crowd favourite at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, won the media player of the year and try of the year awards.
The judges felt his try against the Griffons in the second round of the Currie Cup was the best of the season.
Throughout the season Perez was always in the thick of the action and his electrifying solo runs proved decisive in more than one match.
The under-21 player of the year award went to Shane Gates, while Rynier Bernardo received the most promising player award.
EP president Cheeky Watson said it had been an exceptionally successful season for his union and he thanked all the players for their contributions.
“There are exciting times ahead and we will have a new- look team next year because 13 players are coming to join us.
“One of our new signings, Demetri Catrakilis, was the tipping scale that allowed Western Province to beat the Sharks in the Currie Cup final and he will be our pivotal flyhalf next year,” said Watson.
“We were disappointed with the first leg of our promotion playoff in Bloemfontein, but the guys showed their mettle on their home field in the second game.”
Kings director of rugby Alan Solomons said the team had enjoyed a superb season in the Currie Cup First Division.
“To go unbeaten in the First Division is a rare achievement. I thought the way the players finished off against Free State in the second leg at home was fantastic.
“That performance spoke volumes for the character of the team and we are all looking forward to next year.”