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  • Siya Kolisi named the 2017 Players Player of the Year at first-ever awards by rugby players for rugby players

Sandton, 12 December 2017 – 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 tonight. 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!”

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