South Africa and Kidney secure key IRB Awards
South Africa has been named the International Rugby Board Team of the Year with Ireland's Declan Kidney the IRB Coach of the Year in association with Emirates Airline.
Both awards were announced following the Test between Six Nations champions Ireland and Tri Nations champions South Africa at Croke Park on Saturday.
South Africa have enjoyed a silverware-laden 2009, emphatically claiming the Tri Nations title for the first time in five years and winning a compelling British & Irish Lions series in the summer.
The world champions reclaim the IRB Team of the Year Award from New Zealand, having previously won the prestigious honour in 2004 and 2007, and for captain John Smit the Award is recognition of a fantastic team ethic.
"It's been a huge year for us and to top it off with a recognition like this, to secure the top prize is massive. It was a huge ambition of many of the guys to beat the British & Irish Lions, it was a goal to be victorious so that was a great highlight for us during the year," said Smit.
"I'm very proud to be associated with these guys, it has become a family of guys and hopefully we can keep it going for another two years."
Declan Kidney has enjoyed an exceptional first full year as head coach of Ireland, masterminding his side to a deserved Six Nations Grand Slam - the first by an Irish team in 61 years.
During an outstanding year, Ireland were also unbeaten in November, recording victories over South Africa and Fiji after drawing with Australia. His record this year is played 10, won nine and drawn one and he is the first Irishman to win the coveted IRB Coach of the Year Award since the IRB Awards began in 2001.
"I don't know what to say really, the team have been superb over the last 12 months. I feel my role is overstated, I haven't made a tackle all year! But for my family putting up with me and the players putting up with me even more I'd like to accept it on their behalf," said Kidney.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset added: "It has been a compelling year of international Rugby. South Africa have demonstrated this year exactly why they are world champions, winning the Tri Nations and a truly memorable Lions series, while Declan Kidney has taken Ireland to the Grand Slam, Six Nations and Triple Crown titles. Both are deserving recipients of the prestigious awards."
These two Awards mean eight of the 13 IRB Awards in association with Emirates Airline, including the IRB Hall of Fame, have now been presented with the IRB Player of the Year 2009 to be announced shortly.
In May, England captain Ollie Phillips was named IRB Sevens Player of the Year, while Aaron Cruden was named IRB Junior Player of the Year in June after leading New Zealand Under 20s to the IRB TOSHIBA Junior World Championship title.
Australia's Debby Hodgkinson was named IRB Women's Personality of the Year in August, L'Aquila Rugby Club received the Spirit of Rugby Award in September and this month Francis Palmade received the IRB Referee Award for Distinguished Service.
In a new format for the IRB Awards in association with Emirates Airline, winners have been named throughout the year with the Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service, IRB Development Award, IRPA Special Merit Award and the IRPA Try of the Year still to be made before the end of 2009.
Previous Winners of IRB Team of the Year
2001 - Australia
2002 - France
2003 - England
2004 - South Africa
2005 - New Zealand
2006 - New Zealand
2007 - South Africa
2008 - New Zealand
Previous Winners of IRB Coach of the Year
2001 - Rod Macqueen (Australia)
2002 - Bernard Laporte (France)
2003 - Clive Woodward (England)
2004 - Jake White (South Africa)
2005 - Graham Henry (New Zealand)
2006 - Graham Henry (New Zealand)
2007 - Jake White (South Africa)
2008 - Graham Henry (New Zealand)