The International Rugby Board has announced a shortlist of six nominees for IRB Sevens Player of the Year, the first of the IRB Awards in association with Emirates Airline to be presented this year.
The announcement follows the introduction of an exciting new format for the IRB Awards. Starting this year, the winner of each of the 13 coveted categories of awards will be named at different stages throughout the year, culminating in the announcement of the prestigious IRB Player, Coach and Team of the Year in November.
The IRB Sevens Player of the Year will be announced at a function in Murrayfield Stadium at the conclusion of the Emirates Airline Edinburgh Sevens on 31 May, the final event of the 2008/09 IRB Sevens World Series.
The list comprises one Englishman, one Fijian, two Kenyans and two South Africans. All six players, nominated and voted on by the team management of the 12 core teams in the IRB Sevens World Series, are due to play at Murrayfield this weekend.
Renfred Dazel, South Africa
With a quick thinking rugby brain and lightening fast acceleration, Dazel has been a key man behind South Africa's consistently strong performances this year, helping them win three Series Cup titles so far in Dubai, George and Adelaide. A full time Sevens-contracted player like the rest of Paul Treu's squad, South Africa's reigning Sevens player of the year has played in all seven tournaments so far on the World Series, scoring 18 tries and 169 points.
Collins Injera, Kenya
With 35 tries so far this season Injera is the season's leading scorer, having crossed the whitewash eight times more than anyone else. A constant danger with his pace and power, he is a key reason behind Kenya's rise up the world Sevens rankings to their current position of sixth.
Humphrey Kayange, Kenya
Injera's brother and captain, Kayange has proved an inspirational leader for the Kenyans both on and off the pitch. His haul of 16 tries from seven events represents the second highest by a forward and his ball-winning and defensive qualities lie at the heart of Kenya's vast improvement under coach Benjamin Ayimba. Has led the Africans to four Cup quarter finals, two semi finals and one final on the Series, as well as the semi finals of the Rugby World Cup Sevens.
Mpho Mbiyozo, South Africa
In the absence of Mzwandile Stick, Mbiyozo captained the Springbok Sevens team to victory in Adelaide in April but has been another constant in South Africa's push for a first ever IRB Sevens World Series crown. Another player to have played in all seven events so far this season, he has notched 13 tries to compliment his ball-winning skills as a forward.
Ollie Phillips, England
England's captain this season, Phillips inspired Ben Ryan's side to a first ever Cup success in Wellington in February and a first win in five years at their home London Sevens event at Twickenham last weekend. Having played in six of the seven events so far, he is his country's leading try-scorer this year with 20 and has been central to the team's vast improvement on last season.
Emosi Vucago, Fiji
At the heart of Fiji's rebuilding work under coach Iliesa Tanivula, Vucago wears the number '6' shirt vacated by the great Waisale Serevi and Fiji are always a better team with him than without him. His five tournaments played this year have yielded 10 tries and 82 points, including a starring role in their one Cup success this year in Hong Kong.
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