Rugby World Cup champions South Africa have been nominated by over 1,000 global sports media for the Laureus World Team of the Year accolade at the 20th anniversary Laureus World Sports Awards.
South Africa, who won the Team of the Year Award in 2008 after their Rugby World Cup glory in 2007, face tough competition from Jürgen Klopp’s Uefa Champions League-winning Liverpool FC, the US Women’s Football Team, the winners of the Fifa Women’s World Cup, six-time Formula 1 world champions Mercedes-AMG Petronas, the first Canadian team to win the NBA Championship Toronto Raptors and two-time Fiba World Cup winners the Spain Men’s Basketball Team.
Led by inspirational captain and South Africa’s first black Test captain Siya Kolisi, South Africa beat England 32-12 in Tokyo to win their third Rugby World Cup after triumphs in 2007 and 1995. The win and the resulting celebrations throughout South Africa highlighted the power of sport to unite and inspire a nation.
Schalk Brits, who returned from retirement to represent the Springboks at the Rugby World Cup, said: “You have to remember when we went into the Rugby World Cup we were only ranked fifth or sixth, but as the competition proceeded we really got together as a team and we realised how we could unite the country. It became a bigger cause than just winning a competition. To be nominated for this Award is unbelievable.”
Laureus Academy chairperson and All Blacks legend Sean Fitzpatrick, said: “One could not have predicted the immense impact that South Africa’s win of the Rugby World Cup had around the world. With their victory inspiring the hearts of so many, uniting a multitude of communities, we see once again the exceptionally unique power of sport to unite.
It seems only fitting that the Laureus theme for the 2020 Awards Ceremony is ‘Sport Unites Us’. If I wanted to identify a figure that symbolises the unity that sport has brought about in 2019, Siya Kolisi, the first black Test captain of South Africa, comes straight to mind. I greatly admire the way Kolisi led his team and how he has transcended his leadership role within rugby to become a leader and a role model for his entire country. I am not alone in applauding the whole team for the passion, determination and commitment they have shown. They are truly deserving of this nomination for the Laureus Team of the Year Award.”
Among the highlights in other categories, world No. 1 tennis star Rafael Nadal is in contention for the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award alongside six-time Formula 1 World champion Lewis Hamilton, six-time World MotoGP champion Marc Márquez and six-time Fifa World Footballer of the Year Lionel Messi. Also nominated are Eliud Kipchoge, the first athlete to run a marathon in under two hours and golf legend Tiger Woods, who won his 15th Major Championship at The Masters.
In the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year category gymnast Simone Biles, bidding for her third Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award, is nominated along with track and field stars Allyson Felix and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Fifa Women’s World Cup Golden Ball and Golden Boot winner Megan Rapinoe.
At 15, Coco Gauff is one of the youngest nominees for the 2020 Laureus Awards and is joined in the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year category by Canadian tennis player Bianca Andreescu, 19, the first woman to win the US Open on her debut, and Colombia’s first-ever Tour de France winner, 22-year-old Egan Bernal.
Six of the highest achieving para-athletes make up the nominees for the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award, which includes Cuba’s Omara Durand, the world’s fastest female Paralympian in 2019, and US skier and cyclist Oksana Masters, born with deformities caused by radiation from Chernobyl.