Munster's CJ Stander the big winner at 2016 IRUPA Awards
Ireland and Munster back row CJ Stander was last night awarded the Zurich IRUPA Players' Player of the Year for an outstanding campaign at club and international level.
The Munster captain, who burst onto the Test scene with a number of stellar performances during this year's Six Nations, beat out stiff competition from Robbie Henshaw, Jack McGrath and Rory Best at the 14th annual event to scoop the award voted for by his contemporaries.
The 26-year-old South African was awarded Man of the Match on his international debut in the Championship opener against Wales and didn't look back.
Even as Ireland's fortunes dipped over the course of the tournament, Stander's performances rarely wavered and he dotted down for his first international try during the victory over Italy in the penultimate round, before adding to his tally in the win over Scotland on the final day.
Captaining Munster this season during the prolonged absence of Peter O'Mahony, the dynamic Stander has made for one of thefew positive talking points for the southern province during what has proved an exceedingly difficult period.
Such has been Stander’s contribution, he was also voted the Supporters’ Player of the Year.
“I will remember this season fondly, from winning my first cap, to scoring my first international try and ultimately winning this award,” he said.
“I’m delighted to win this award. Receiving recognition from my peers is the ultimate accolade.”
Maintaining the run of accolades for the back row union was Leinster and Ireland open-side Josh Van Der Flier, who was named as the Nevin Spence Young Player of the Year 2016.
The Wesley college man impressed so much in the early stages of the campaign for Leo Cullen’s men that he was called into the international fray far sooner than he may have dreamed.
Amid a mounting injury crisis, Van Der Flier debuted for Ireland against England in Twickenham and immediately looked at home on the international stage.
Elsewhere, Jamie Heaslip won the Try of the Year for his outstanding effort against Italy – Ireland’s finest team moment of the 2016 to date, while Ireland and Munster legend Ronan O'Gara was inducted into the Hall of Fame.