The Springbok duo of hooker Malcolm Marx and scrumhalf Faf de Klerk were nominated for the World Player of the Year award on Friday.
Marx and De Klerk are the first South Africans to be nominated for the prestigious award since 2014 when fullback Willie le Roux and No 8 Duane Vermeulen both made the cut.
Last week Bok wing Aphiwe Dyantyi was shortlisted for the Breakthrough Player of the Year award.
The New Zealand duo of wing Rieko Ioane and flyhalf Beauden Barrett‚ and Ireland flyhalf Johnny Sexton‚ completed the list of nominees.
Marx‚ 24‚ is the current SA Player of the Year. He has the fewest Tests on this year’s list after only playing six times for the Boks in 2018.
Marx missed the June Tests against Wales and England through injury‚ but he was a dynamic presence in Super Rugby prior to his injury. He was in magnificent form for the Boks through the Rugby Championship and along with Sexton‚ must be the favourite for the gong.
Marx made the second-most tackle turnovers in the Rugby Championship‚ with eight‚ only two behind renowned poacher Davis Pocock. Marx also led tackle turnovers in Super Rugby with 24.
But the tough hooker was also prominent at slowing ball down and winning penalties at the breakdown while his powerful ball carrying is also a key feature of his play.
Marx tidied up the one weak area of his game – lineout throwing – this season and now looks the complete rugby player.
The 27-year-old De Klerk was a key figure in the Boks 2-1 series win over England in June and he continued that form into the Rugby Championship.
His sniping runs‚ speed to clear the ball and hounding defence were key features of his play this season. De Klerk played the most minutes for the Boks during the Rugby Championship (472 out of a possible 480) while also scoring tries against Australia and Argentina.
Sexton is the oldest of the nominees at 33. He has been at the heart of Ireland’s climb to second in the World Rugby Rankings on the back of a Six Nations Grand Slam and first series win in Australia for 39 years.
The veteran flyhalf‚ a calming presence in the Irish backline‚ began the year by kicking a last-minute drop goal to secure victory over France and has started seven of his eight tests‚ coming off the bench in Ireland’s only loss to date.
Ioane‚ the youngest of the nominees at only 21‚ is shortlisted for the second year in a row‚ having also been named World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year in 2017.
The All Black winger is the top scorer in Test rugby in 2018‚ crossing for 11 tries in his eight starts to take his career tally to an impressive 22 tries in 21 Tests.
The 27-year-old Barrett could become the first player to win the prestigious accolade three years in a row after another impressive season in the All Blacks’ No 10 jersey.
Barrett has scored seven tries in his eight Tests in 2018‚ six of them in the Bledisloe Cup series against Australia‚ including a record four amid a 30-point haul at Eden Park.
The attack-minded flyhalf‚ who is equally at home at fullback‚ has continued to torment defences with his instinctive play this year‚ helping New Zealand win the series with France and defend the Rugby Championship title.