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2013The year was full of spectacular moments and performances as well as disappointing lows and infamous incidents; we name and shame the best and worst in our 2013 Awards.

New Zealand and Wales ruled their respective hemispheres for the second successive year, the All Blacks enjoying a flawless 2013 campaign.


The British and Irish Lions broke a 16-year drought with a 2-1 series win over the Wallabies Down Under and the Springboks celebrated their most successful season in recent times, winning 10 of their 12 Tests.

New stars emerged, veterans turned back the clock and records were broken. Farcical refereeing decisions marred some of the year’s most anticipated matches, while the Wallabies and ongoing European Cup saga provided controversy off the field.


Here then, are our big winners and losers of 2013:

Player of the Year: Kieran Read

Kieran Read

Kieran Read

The undisputed best in the world single-handedly raised the bar of what’s expected of an international eighthman in 2013. He’s the prototype of the perfect modern day No.8 – arguably the most well-rounded eighthman the world has ever seen and a game breaker of note. He’s equally adept on attack, defence, in the set pieces and in the air. Simply put, he owned 2013.


Forward of the Year: Kieran Read

Read had some stiff competition from the likes of Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen, Bismarck du Plessis, Michael Hooper, Liam Messam and Sergio Parisse, but the All Black No.8 reigned supreme as he boasts all the skills that make each of his closest rivals the stars they are.


Back of the Year: Ben Smith

Ben Smith

Ben Smith, finisher of note!

Springbok and Wallaby rookies Willie le Roux and Israel Folau made a major impact in their debut international seasons and Leigh Halfpenny broke records en route to winning the British and Irish Lions Player of the Series, Six Nations Player of the Championship and Wales Sports Personality of the Year awards. However, none of them was as sublime as Smith, who carved up the world’s best defensive lines week-in and week-out, seemingly at will.


Young Player of the Year: Eben Etzebeth

Eben Etzebeth

Eben Etzebeth – Young Player Of The Year

The prodigious Springbok lock scoops our Young Player of the Year award for the second successive year. He showed no signs of the dreaded second season syndrome in 2013, enhancing his reputation as an undeniable force instead. At just 22 years of age, the sky’s the limit for this athletic gargantuan.


Team of the Year: New Zealand

All Blacks Haka

All Blacks – Team Of The Year

The All Black vintage of 2013 earned the moniker “The Untouchables” as they romped to the first perfect season in the professional era. The Springboks, France and Ireland pushed them to the limit, but their class shone through time and time again. They are unquestionably the benchmark, only got better and celebrated four years at the summit of the IRB World Rankings in 2013.


Coach of the Year: Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen - Coach Of The Year

Steve Hansen – Coach Of The Year

While he had an overflowing talent pool at his disposal, Hansen had to strike a balance and manage his playing personnel wisely to ensure they don’t trip up through a marathon 14-Test season. Through his man-management – from sabbaticals and resting key players to integrating young talent – the All Black machine destroyed everything in its path. The absences of Dan Carter and Richie McCaw were hardly noticeable with New Zealand losing none of their trademark fluidity.


Match of the Year: South Africa v New Zealand at Ellis Park


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The year produced a number of instant classics – the nail-biting first Test between the Wallabies and the British and Irish Lions and the All Blacks’ last-gasp win over Ireland in Dublin that made it 14 out of 14 for the New Zealanders. Yet, the clash of the year was the epic at Ellis Park, the Rugby Championship decider between the game’s greatest teams and rivals. New Zealand needed just a bonus point to retain the silverware, but a first victory over South Africa at the iconic venue since 1997 saw them throw everything at their old foe. After nine tries and 80 minutes of non-stop action, the All Blacks underlined their superiority and came away with a 38-27 win. It was rugby poetry in motion.


Try of the Year: Bryan Habana v New Zealand

Bryan Habana scores yet another Test try

Bryan Habana scores yet another Test try


It’s only fitting that the Match of the Year also produced the Try of the Year as South Africa’s all-time top try-scorer received a sensational offload from Francois Louw, chipped Ben Smith and regathered to score his second try of the match and make it back-to-back rugby365 Try of the Year awards.


Team Try of the Year: Beauden Barritt v France in Addington



The brilliance of the All Blacks was on full display when they manufactured a majestic length-of-the-field team try rounded off by replacement Barritt under the posts.


Disappointment of the Year: James O’Connor

James O'Connor - Disappointment Of The Year

James O’Connor – Disappointment Of The Year

The Pumas were a major letdown, as was the sub-standard Northern Hemisphere pitches, but O’Connor’s spectacular fall from grace and wasting of his talent ‘won’ him the award. A slew of off-field controversies including a drunken incident in which he was removed from Perth Airport by Australian Federal Police saw O’Connor get the boot from the Wallabies and the Melbourne Rebels and sent the 23-year-old packing for Europe, where he linked up with London Irish.


Hero of the Year: Jean de Villiers

Jean de Villiers - Hero Of The Year

Jean de Villiers – Hero Of The Year

The talismanic Springbok captain put his body on the line for his country and led by example as he took the fight to the opposition. He epitomised the heart of a champion and the will and desire to win and showed dogged determination all year, highlighted by his fantastic try in the Ellis Park epic when he steamrolled Beauden Barritt.


Villain of the Year: Jim Hamilton

Jim Hamilton - Thug Of The Year

Jim Hamilton – Thug Of The Year

There was no shortage of contenders in this category with All Black serial offender Ma’a Nonu and Samoa fullback James So’oialo, who despicably grabbed the testicles of Springbok hooker Adriaan Strauss at Loftus Versfeld, right up there. However, Hamilton’s blatant malice and persistent intent to injure made him the most infamous thug of 2013.


Comeback of the Year: Schalk Burger

Schalk Burger - Comeback Of The Year

Schalk Burger – Comeback Of The Year

Quade Cooper’s return to prominence in the Wallaby jersey was commendable. Japan-based duo Fourie du Preez and George Smith’s comebacks for the Springboks and Wallabies respectively were remarkable. Juan Smith’s unlikely return – for French club Toulon – from persistent Achilles tendon issues after he had announced his retirement earlier in the year was inspiration. Burger’s comeback for Western Province and his excellent performance for the Barbarians against Fiji borders on miraculous, the Springbok great having overcome a knee injury sustained in the opening game of the 2012 Super Rugby season, a calf problem at the start of 2013, surgery on a cyst on his spine and bacterial meningitis that saw him spend six weeks in the hospital and another eight weeks indoors – all over the course of 18 months.


Moment of the Year: Bismarck du Plessis’ tackle on Dan Carter



In the most controversial on-field incident of the year, Du Plessis flattens Carter with a classic, bone-crushing hit. Despite it being a perfectly legal tackle, French referee Romain Poite sends the Springbok hooker off and ruins one of the most anticipated Tests of 2013.


Best Refereeing Performance of the Year: Nigel Owens: South Africa v New Zealand at Ellis Park

Nigel Owens - Best refereeing performance of the year (Springboks vs All Blacks, Ellis Park, SA)

Nigel Owens – Best refereeing performance of the year (Springboks vs All Blacks, Ellis Park, SA)

In stark contrast to Romain Poite’s shocking performance in the superpowers’ first meeting of the year, Welsh referee Owens allows the match to flow and contributes to a classic in no uncertain terms.


Straight Shooter of the Year: Nick Mallett

Nick Mallett

The former Springbok and Italy coach didn’t pull any punches and said it as it was in his role of analyst on South African TV, condemning incompetent match officials and underperforming teams, players and coaches.


Is it over yet: European saga


The row over the future of the European Cup continued throughout all of 2013 with no clear-cut solution in sight.

14 Responses to 2013: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

  • 1

    Was certainly a busy year for rugby and a year we will remember for various things!

    Wales in the Six Nations, Tuks in Varsity Cup, British & Irish Lions 2013, Chiefs in Super Rugby, All Blacks & Springboks in the Rugby Championship, The Sharks in Currie Cup final, All Blacks for an almost flawless year (all wins), Southern Hemisphere dominance over the Northern Hemisphere.

    Of course 2013 will also be remembered for very bad refrereeing, specially Romain Poite!

    2013 Leaves me positive for 2014… but not so positive on the Bulls chances in Super Rugby for 2014.

  • 2

    2013 Also saw the rapid rise on the International stage of Duane Vermeulen, Cheslin Kolbe in the Currie Cup, Arno Botha for the Bulls and Bokke, Demetri Catrakilis for the Southern Kings in Super Rugby and a number more.

    But it also saw the waning of some bright stars like Elton Jantjies (Super Rugby), Dan Cater (Super Rugby & for the All Blacks), Brian O’Driscoll in the British & Irish Lions, James O’Connor in Super Rugby and for the Wallabies and a few more.

    It has seen the departure from South Africa of a large number of regular Springboks…

  • 3

    Rising stars for 2014?

    How’s about Cheslin Kolbe for the Stormers.
    How’s about Fred Zeilinga, SP Marais & Lourens Adriaanse at the Sharks.
    How’s about Jaco Kriel, Marnitz Boshoff & Anthony Volmink at the Lions.
    How’s about Francois Venter at the Cheetahs.
    How’s about William Small-Smith & Piet van Zyl at the Bulls

    Internationally how’s about Beauden Barrett for the All Blacks (to supercede both Cruden and Carter).

  • 4

    My Christmas wish list for this Christmas…

    Prosperity for all associated to Rugby-Talk.
    A stellar Year for the Bulls in Super Rugby and hopefully a better Currie Cup year for the Blue Bulls.
    The Springboks to go unbeaten in 2014.
    A generally great year for all South African Super Rugby sides.

    Solidarity, peace, a content, safer and happier South Africa, with crime decreasing rapidly!

  • 5

    @ grootblousmile:
    I think Tim Swiel could make swift progress at the Sharks. I also think the Stormers will have a slightly more balanced approach between defence and attack.

    The Bulls should struggle in 2014.

    I think the Cheetahs had their good year and won’t make the play offs in 2014.

    The Springboks have some real potential but they would have to start by already doing better in the Mid-Year Tests where the north come here to tour.

    At the Stormers Louis Schreuder will come to the fore more, Peter Grant and Dimitri Catrakilis will be the choice flyhalves.

  • 6

    I think that I will eat plenty biltong and drink plenty beers & scotch while watching rugby in 2014.

  • 7

    5 @ Alles wat mal is:
    Tim Swiel will be up against Patrick Lambie & Fred Zeilinga who should both rank above him in 2014.

    You mean you HOPE the Stormers will have a more balanced approach between defence and attack!

    I can see why you say the Bulls should struggle, despite the fact that they will still sport 14 Springboks in their Super Rugby squad… you ascribe it to the performance in the Currie Cup… but you forget that half the starting lineup, literally half… will return from injury.

    I do not see the Bulls win the SA Conference, I see them end mid-table somewhere.

    The Cheetahs must come show us that it was not a flook year in 2013, they need to kick on… and it could go either way. They might just be super motivated from 2013′s performances and go better, or like you say, fall off from 2013.

    The Springboks do need to start well in 2014 in the June Internationals, but what will now be hampering them more than in 2013, will be the increased number of overseas players, who won’t be able to take part in the training camps in preparation for the season.

    You mention Louis Schreuder… I think he was extremely lucky to be picked to go on tour with the Springboks and I think he is rather close to the 9th best scrumhalf SA offers. I would have the following ALL in front of him for national honours:

    Fourie du Preez
    Rory Kockott
    Jano Vermaak
    Francois Hougaard
    Sarel Pretorius
    Piet van Zyl
    Charl McLeod
    Cobus Reinach

    Somehow I think Toetie and Demetri Catrakilis still do not get along… I think we’ll see Grant, Catrakilis, Coleman and Gary van Aswegen all having a bit of a go in the season, with Peter Grant likely to get injured or be rotated a lot… therefore the other 3 will all get a fair shot.

  • 8

    6 @ Loosehead:
    Me too… except for the Scotch (never been that thirsty)… and the beers (beer fills me up too quick).

    Will definately do the biltong thingy though… and have a number of sletsappies & Jerrekie-pik-my’s to swig it down.

  • 9

    JDV is the hero.
    What a year for him individually. Well going on the way he played for the Boks not many played as well as him in any of the teams….besides Keiran Read,JDV must have been close for player of the year. He was everywhere and did everything. As well as off the field, he is a very good captain.

  • 10

    And by the way Merry Christmas to you all on here.
    Hope you all have a great new year.

  • 11

    9 @ Hurricane:

    Kieran Read was sublime in 2013… but he’s got a worthy challenger now suddenly in Duane Vermeulen.

    I was really impressed with Beauden Barrett and I already can’t understand the All Blacks picking Aaron Cruden above Barrett. Each time he’s come on, he’s broken the game wide open with his incisive runs and tries.

    I think the All Blacks have work to do on their scrumming, whereas I think the Springboks have work to do on their kick-off receipts and still fine-tune some other stuff.

    I’m glad the All Blacks & Springboks are setting the world pace, it’s a fitting rivalry.

  • 12

    10 @ Hurricane:
    Merry Christmas to you too, must be deep into Christmas Eve for you already!

  • 13

    @ grootblousmile:

    Yeah KR was awesome this year.
    IT is good seeing the ABs and Bok showing the way and i think the Ozzies well be a different team next year.
    One other thing i think the boks need to work on is timing of attack or kicking. A few times decision making was incorrect. But i think that well come with time.

  • 14

    13 @ Hurricane:
    Yip, Springbok decision making needs to grow with the rest of their game in 2014.

    The Springboks also need to have better on-field dicipline and not fall for the obvious attempts of needling players like Eben Etzebeth, Francois Louw, Jannie du Plessis and Bismarck du Plessis… they are card liabilities and 2013 showed that clearly.


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