Siya Kolisi was voted the UK Rugby Union Writers’ Club personality of the year for 2019 on Monday after leading South Africa to their emotional World Cup triumph in Japan.
The Springboks’ captain was recognised with the annual Pat Marshall Memorial Award at the RUWC’s annual dinner in London following a poll of its 200-plus members.
The tough flanker, who was appointed South Africa‘s first black test captain in 2018, helped transform the side to win last year’s Rugby Championship and then their third World Cup when they overwhelmed England 32-12 in the Yokohama final.
Kolisi won admirers the world over for his performances on the pitch in Japan and his grace off it, particularly following the triumph when he talked so emotionally and eloquently of his remarkable journey to the game’s summit after being raised in poverty by his grandmother in a township outside Port Elizabeth.
The shortlist for the 2019 award, named after the former Daily Express rugby correspondent, was dominated by South Africa, with coach Rassie Erasmus and scrumhalf Faf de Klerk also nominated, along with Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones and Japan skipper Michael Leitch.
Kolisi succeeds Ireland flyhalf Johnny Sexton as winner of the award and follows in the footsteps of greats like the inaugural recipient, Welshman Mervyn Davies in 1976, Jonah Lomu, Martin Johnson, Jonny Wilkinson, Dan Carter and another Springbok captain, Francois Pienaar.
Former Scotland captain Tom Smith received the Special Award in recognition of his service to the game as he battles colorectal cancer.
The 48-year-old prop won 61 international caps between 1997 and 2005 and was a key member of the British and Irish Lions team that completed a 2-1 series victory over South Africa in 1997.