The Blue Bulls Company (BBCo.) held its annual combined awards evening, celebrating achievements by the Vodacom Bulls, Vodacom Bulls junior sides as well as the Bulls Daisies who remain undefeated in their debut season of professional rugby.
Springboks Kurt-Lee Arendse, Gerhard Steenekamp, Embrose Papier and Rights Mkhari, all walked away winners on a glitz and glamorous evening, with a touch of funky flair which was left open to the interpretation of the attendees. The event was held at the Atterbury Theatre in Tshwane, on Tuesday evening.
Arendse walked away the biggest winner on the night, claiming a whopping five awards as the creative, dynamic and unrelenting speedster was rewarded for an impressive season which is still continuing on the international stage. The 27-year-old utility back was named both the Vodacom Players Player of the Year and the Vodacom Fans Player of the Year winner via a majority count of the votes cast through the Vodacom Bulls App. He was also crowned as the overall Vodacom Player of the Year for the 2022/23 season.
Arendse also claimed Heineken Champions Cup Backline Player of the Year and Heineken Champions Cup Player of the Year awards, pipping Wandisile Simelane and Embrose Papier for the Backline Player award with Johan Grobbelaar and Elrigh Louw finishing second and third respectively in the Player of the Year category of the 2022/23 campaign in Europe.
The Forward Player of the Year award for the Vodacom Bulls European voyage went to Johan Grobbelaar who accumulated 156 minutes of play from three matches played, making 28 tackles and scoring a try (against Exeter Chiefs) as the herd made quite the impressive debut in the competition. Grobbelaar also walked away with the PUMA award for the most improved player.
Ruan Nortje, who led the club for much of the 2022/23 season, was honoured as the Vodacom United Rugby Championship ISUZU Forward Player of the Year after the 25-year-old had an impressive campaign. In the 19 matches that Nortje featured in during the competition, he made 147 carries on attack while finishing with a defensive tackle success rate of 87 per cent in the 168 tackles he made, which ranks him eighth overall in the competition.
David Kriel, who finished last season of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship with the most clean breaks (23) in the entire competition while his 846 metres gained ranks him third overall, won the Vodacom Bulls Vodacom United Rugby Championship Backline Player of the Year Award. Kriel was up against Springbok stars, Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse for the award.
Newly capped Springbok, Gerhard Steenekamp was named the Vodacom Bulls Vodacom United Rugby Championship Player of the Year for his consistent season, which was capped by him earning a national call-up to become the 150th Vodacom Bulls player to become a Bok. Steenekamp’s season in the competition has seen him rake up a 91 per cent tackle success rate from the 96 tackles made while he also ranks up high among the forwards pack on attack, making 96 successful carries. There is no doubt his clean break against Zebre Parma will remain a favourite highlight of both his and the Loftus faithful.
In the Currie Cup, scrum-half, Embrose Papier walked away the big winner, claiming both the Vodacom Backline Player of the Year and overall Vodacom Player of the Year Awards after a stellar 2023 campaign in the oldest rugby competition in the world and South Africa’s Premier Rugby Competition. Jan-Hendrik Wessels won the Vodacom Forward Player of the Year award.
For the ladies’ competition, the 2023 ISUZU Bulls Daisies Player of the Year award went to - Limpopo Express - Rights Mkhari, who was nominated for the award alongside 2023 Bulls Daisies Forward Player of the Year winner, Sinelitha Noxeke and Libbie Janse van Rensburg, who won the 2023 Bulls Daisies Backline Player of the Year award. The lanky, bulldozing and try-scoring flanker has been in an unstoppable mood since the start of the 2023 Women’s Premier Division campaign, dotting down nine tries and proving instrumental to the Daisies campaign thus far. Byrhandre Dolf walked away with the Bulls Daisies SSG Players Player of the Year award.
Elsewhere, the Vodacom Bulls Junior Awards saw Mawande Mdande walk away with the 2023 AFGRI Most Improved Junior Player, alongside 2023 Most Valuable Players Steven Nel (under-19), Neels Volschenk (under-20) while Corne Beets (under-19) and Tiaan Lange (under-21) walked away with the same award for the 2022 campaign.
Junior Springbok vice-captain, Katlego Letebele won the under-20 backline player of the year award while Alfondso Isaacs took the same honours at under-19s. Neil Le Roux (under-19) and Quewin Nortje (under-21) took the same award for the 2022 season. Nortje enjoyed an impressive season in blue, which preluded his call-up to the national fold where he made his debut in Springbok colours during the 2023 World Rugby under-20 Championships. At the front, the forward's Player of the Year award went to Lukas Meyer (under-19) and Juann Else (under-20) with Abulele Ndabambi (under-19) and Sebastian Lombard (under-21) claiming the same accolade for the 2022 season.
FULL LIST OF THE 2022/23 VODACOM BULLS AWARD WINNERS:
ISUZU Bulls Daisies Player of the Year: Rights Mkhari
SSG Bulls Daisies Players Player of the Year: Byrhandre Dolf
Bulls Daisies Forward Player of the Year: Sinelitha Noxeke
Bulls Daisies Backline Player of the Year: Libbie Jansen van Rensburg
Vodacom Bulls under-19s - 2023
Vodacom Bulls under-19 Forward Player of the Year: Lukas Meyer
Vodacom Bulls under-19 Backline Player of the Year: Alfondso Isaacs
Vodacom Bulls under-19 Player of the Player: Steven Nel
Vodacom Bulls under-20s - 2023
Vodacom Bulls under-20 Forward Player of the Year: Juann Else
Vodacom Bulls under-20 Backline Player of the Year: Katlego Letebele
Vodacom Bulls under-20 Player of the Player: Neels Volschenk
Vodacom Bulls under-19s - 2022
Vodacom Bulls under-19 Forward Player of the Year: Abulele Ndabambi
Vodacom Bulls under-19 Backline Player of the Year: Neil Le Roux
Vodacom Bulls under-19 Player of the Player: Corne Beets
** These awards are handed out this year because the 2022 under-19 competition happened post last season’s awards evening.
Vodacom Bulls under-21s - 2022
Vodacom Bulls under-20 Forward Player of the Year: Sebastian Lombard
Vodacom Bulls under-21 Backline Player of the Year: Quewin Nortje
Vodacom Bulls under-21 Player of the Player: Tiaan Lange
© Vodacom Bulls