Burger best, as Kennedy and Fleming also rewarded

SOUTH Africa’s latest rugby sensation Schalk Burger helped extend the Springbok celebrations at the weekend when he picked up the International Player of the Year award on Sunday night.

The 21-year-old was a mainstay of the Bok side which lifted the Tri-Nations title this year and, despite sitting out the 45-10 defeat of Scotland, he joined the team and coach Jake White in scooping the three top awards at the annual IRB awards dinner in London.

However, there was some celebration for Scottish rugby, despite the thumping from the Boks the previous day, when Donna Kennedy was voted the IRB International Women’s Personality of the Year and retired referee Jim Fleming picked up the IRB Referee Award for Distinguished Service.

Kennedy, who set a new world record of 77 women’s caps this year, admitted: "It was fantastic to be there and an honour to win the award. It really is a step forward for women’s rugby and for rugby north of the border to be represented at such an event."

Fleming is still Scotland’s most-capped international referee, having controlled 40 major Tests over his 29-year international career, and he now works with Scottish referees as an assessor and referees coaching co-ordinator.

He said: "I’m absolutely delighted. When the host Joel Stransky started talking about the award and said ‘let’s see some footage of the winner in action’, I looked up at the big screen and thought ‘oh-oh, it’s me!’ I’m tickled pink!"

2004 IRB AWARD WINNERS

Referee Award for Distinguished Service: Jim Fleming (Scotland)

International Women’s Personality of the Year: Donna Kennedy (Scotland)

International Player of the Year: Schalk Burger (South Africa)

International Team of the Year: South Africa

International Coach of the Year: Jake White (South Africa)

International U19 Player of the Year: Jeremy Thrush (New Zealand)

International U21 Player of the Year: Jerome Kaino (New Zealand)

International Sevens Team of the Year: New Zealand

International Sevens Player of the Year: Simon Amor (England)

Spirit of Rugby Award: Jarrod Cunningham

Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service: Ronnie Dawson

Development Award: Guedel Ndiaye

Chairman’s Award: Marcel Martin