Ikeys and Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth was named as one of the five nominees for the IRB World Player of the Year Award for 2013.
The 22-year-old is the youngest of the five nominees. The other four are Kieran Read and Ben Smith (both New Zealand), Leigh Halfpenny (Wales and the British and Irish Lions) and Sergio Parisse (Italy).
“From everyone involved in South African rugby, we would like to congratulate Eben on this nomination and we'll be rooting for him when the winner is revealed after the current series of Tests in the Northern Hemisphere,” said Saru president Oregan Hoskins.
“This is a magnificent achievement for one of the best young players we've seen in the Springbok jersey in the last decade.”
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer lauded Etzebeth for his contribution to South Africa in the last two seasons.
“I've followed his career closely since he was still at school and I'm extremely proud of Eben,” said Meyer.
“It's almost amazing to think that he was still playing in the Varsity Cup for the University of Cape Town in 2011. He is very athletic, great in the line-outs and a strong ball-carrier, which makes him the perfect modern-day lock – in my opinion one of the best in the world Ä and an integral part of the Springbok team.
“Eben's performances this year and in 2012 is testimony to someone who puts in a lot of hard work, is eager to learn and doesn't shy away from a challenge.
“I've already said that I believe he can become a world great if he remains humble and keeps working hard and this nomination, in only his second year in Test rugby, underlines that.”
Etzebeth heard of his nomination when the Springboks returned to their team hotel in Paris after Friday's captain's run at the Stade de France, where they face France on Saturday.
“To be nominated is a huge honour,” he said.
“I'm lucky to be part of a great team, and in my opinion every one of the other Springboks could've made the final list, so it's very humbling for me to be one of the five nominees.
“I would like to thank, from the bottom of my heart, my family and friends as well as everyone who has been involved in my career to date and who has believed in me. But, first and foremost, we have a Test to get ready for against France on Saturday.”
Saturday's Test will be Etzebeth's 23rd for the Springboks. He made his debut on June 9, 2012, against England in Durban and has missed only one Test in the past two seasons.
Etzebeth, a former SA Under-20 representative, has also played in 21 Super Rugby matches for the Stormers, and six in the Currie Cup for Western Province. – Sapa