Clermont fullback Nick Abendanon has just been named the European Rugby Player of the Year, beating out other big-name nominees like Jamie Heaslip, Steffon Armitage and Billy Vunipola. But even with all the accolades, Abendanon never expected his playing career to take him to such heights.
The Joburg-born star never thought he’d be playing for one of French rugby’s heavyweights, but the talented outside back first made his mark with English club Bath before heading to the centre of France.
Abendanon played a key role in getting Clermont to the Champions Cup final and scored a solo try in their 24-18 defeat by Toulon at the weekend, but his performance could not be ignored by rugby pundits and his peers.
The award caps an impressive season for Abendanon, who topped four of the tournament’s attacking categories, including racking up 929 metres made on his 112 carries.
Abendanon also made 13 clean breaks and beat the tackles of 34 defenders, while scoring four tries.
“It’s obviously a huge honour to receive this accolade, especially with the great players who have received it in years past,” Abendanon said.
“I want to thank everyone involved at Clermont for the help, support and character shown throughout the year.
“I realise that this is an individual award but it is, for me, a recognition of the players around me who have shown such resolve and endeavour during a tough European season.
“I would therefore like to accept it on behalf of the whole squad as a small consolation for Saturday’s disappointment.”
Abendanon has said “it would be a dream come true” to represent England in the 2015 World Cup, but England head coach Stuart Lancaster has only picked domestic-based players.
“I played for 10 years in England and came out to France because I thought my international career was over,” added Abendanon. “I’m sure Steffon felt the same.
“Playing in France has rejuvenated our games and whether we get rewarded for that is up to Stuart.”
It’s great to see a South African taking a different route and marking a name for himself on the international scene, and MenStuff would like to congratulate Nick on his award.
Check out Nick’s epic try below: