South Africa flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit was named World Rugby Player of the Year on Sunday as the World Cup-winning Springboks swept the main awards.
Rassie Erasmus won coach of the year and South Africa also took the team award at a glittering ceremory in Tokyo, a day after they lifted the Webb Ellis Cup for the third time.
The 27-year-old du Toit was instrumental in South Africa’s World Cup campaign, especially effective at the breakdown and winning the battle against England’s famed “kamikaze kids” back row in the final.
“It’s a massive honour for me to accept this award,” said Du Toit, who plays his club rugby for Western Province.
“I think when we come back (to South Africa), it’s going to be an unbelievable experience... We can’t wait to get home. We miss our country so much,” added the 55-cap loose forward.
“I’ve got three younger brothers as well and they tell me ‘You’re living our dream’, so I have to live up to that,” he told reporters.
Du Toit beat off competition including his team-mate wing Cheslin Kolbe, as well as All Black Ardie Savea and England’s young star Tom Curry.
The women’s player of the year award went to Emily Scarratt, the 29-year-old centre who helped England to a Grand Slam in the women’s Six Nations.
‘We want to be like New Zealand’
The World Rugby panel picked South Africa as men’s team of the year and Erasmus as top coach after the Springboks won the World Cup and also secured the Rugby Championship for the first time since 2009.
Erasmus took over as director of rugby at the end of 2017 and shortly afterwards doubled his responsibilities by becoming head coach following the sacking of Allister Coetzee after a miserable run of 12 losses from 25 games.
He has rapidly turned the Boks’ fortunes around, culminating in Saturday’s 32-12 win over England in the final when Siya Kolisi, their first black captain, lifted the trophy in Yokohama.
“I’m very, very proud to be South Africa,” said the affable Erasmus, a strong believer in building a game plan around kicking half-backs and a solid set-piece.
“We’re all trying to be like the All Blacks. We’ve enjoyed the last 24 hours. We’ll enjoy the next two weeks and then after that, we want to be like New Zealand, to be consistent,” he added.
“We really needed some good news,” he said, referring to the “many challenges” faced by his country.
Earlier fly-half Romain Ntamack, one of the bright spots in France’s run to the quarter-finals, was named breakthrough player of the year.
All Blacks back TJ Perenara’s stunning World Cup score against Namibia, where he collected Brad Weber’s behind-the-back pass and touched down spectacularly in the corner, was awarded try of the year.
Fiji’s Jerry Tuwai was men’s sevens player of the year, while Ruby Tui of New Zealand won the women’s award for the Olympic format.
And referee of the year went to Wayne Barnes, the highly regarded Englishman who took charge of Friday’s third-place play-off between New Zealand and Wales.