Bemused South African pundits and fans have questioned the absence of Springboks players in the World Rugby men’s player of the year nominations.
Australia’s Michael Hooper and Samu Kerevi, France’s Antoine Dupont and England/British and Irish Lions player Maro Itoje have been nominated for the men’s 15s player of the year award, which will be decided by a fan vote.
Curiously, no player from the No.1-ranked Springboks or No.2-ranked All Blacks earned a nod.
It marks the first time since 2001 that neither New Zealand or South Africa are represented in the nominations and the first time since 2004 that an All Blacks player has missed out.
Lukhanyo Am is the only South African player nominated in any of the eight main World Rugby award categories – he’s up for try of the year thanks to his effort against the British and Irish Lions.
The snubbing didn’t sit well with Craig Lewis, a journalist for the South African, who described the Springboks’ omissions as “laughable”.
While he agreed that Hooper and Dupont were deserving selections, he argued “it’s impossible for anyone to truly mount a reasonable argument to suggest that Samu Kerevi and Maro Itoje are more deserving nominees than the likes of [Siya] Kolisi, Am and [Eben] Etzebeth.
“Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction, and World Rugby proved that to be true when they revealed the four-man shortlist,” Lewis wrote in his column.
Siya & his warrior @Springboks can’t control @WorldRugby awards nominations but they can control their performance on Sat – and that will be the prize that means something to them – doing @EnglandRugby again
— Mark Keohane (@mark_keohane) November 15, 2021
Lukhanyo Am is the ONLY South African to claim a nomination for ANY of the 2021 World Rugby Awards.
His try for South Africa A against the British & Irish Lions is up for the International Rugby Players Men’s Try of the Year
— Jared Wright (@jaredwright17) November 15, 2021
Springboks waiting for the World Rugby award nominations to drop…
Anyone want to break it to them? pic.twitter.com/rw6C2u6FKS
— Pat McCarry (@patmccarry) November 15, 2021
The World Rugby Award nominations have given the Springboks a little more motivation.
All this fuss and noise about omissions will do very little to distract them
— Sporting Around (@Sporting_Around) November 15, 2021
Sports journalist Andy McGeady tweeted in response to the nominations: “This is just plain weird”.
This is just plain weird. https://t.co/MH97Y8CVSh
— Andy McGeady (@andymcgeady) November 15, 2021
I have to admit I find this shortlist mystifying…not least how can Lukhanyo Am not be nominated ????????♂️ https://t.co/3tTN3otdyF
— Martin Cross (@MartinXRugby) November 15, 2021
Former Springboks captain John Smit, who led the team to the 2007 World Cup triumph, was on the panel responsible for deciding the men’s 15s award nominees.
Maggie Alphonsi (England), Fiona Coghlan (Ireland), Thierry Dusautoir (France), George Gregan (Australia), Richie McCaw (New Zealand), Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland), Melodie Robinson (New Zealand) and Clive Woodward (England) were the other judges.
SA Rugby president Mark Alexander commended Am for making the try of the year shortlist.
“On behalf of SA Rugby and South Africa’s passionate rugby fans, we would like to congratulate Lukhanyo for being nominated for the International Rugby Players Men’s Try of the Year award,” said Mr Alexander.
“Only four players are nominated for this prestigious award and being part of that selected group is in itself a huge achievement.
“It was certainly a great try, and it underlined the quality of the players and skill we have in this special Springbok team.”
Still, the lack of individual recognition may fire up South Africa when they face England this weekend for the first time since the 2019 World Cup final.
The World Rugby Awards 2021 will be held in a digital-first format from 6-10 December, with winners unveiled on World Rugby’s social media channels.