CAPE TOWN: Springbok wing Bryan Habana was named South African Rugby Player of the Year at a ceremony here on Thursday as he became only the second star ever to win the award more than twice.
The 29-year-old, hampered by an injured knee, limped onto the stage with the help of crutches to accept the award for the third time after having also been voted number one by the rugby media in 2005 and 2007.
His striking form helped his team, the Cape Town-based Western Province, win the Currie Cup last Saturday, while his seven tries for the national side in 2012 bring his national record tally to 47.
Habana's hat-trick against Australia in Pretoria in September brought the home team a 31-8 victory in the Rugby Championship.
He also was recognised for Try of the Year after bursting past the All Blacks defence to score in Dunedin, also in September.
"It's a very humbling experience," he said, accepting the award after doubt had previously been cast on his performances.
"I never really doubted myself but when these questions come about you just have to work harder," he added.
"Hopefully I'll leave the jersey in a better place than I received it."
Habana's three Player of the Year awards are second only to former Springbok fly-half Naas Botha. Now a television analyst with the Johannesburg-based SuperSport channel, Botha won the award four times.
Habana, whose first names were inspired by former Manchester United footballers Bryan Robson and Gary Bailey, received the accolade at the awards ceremony in a Cape Town International Airport hangar, five days after helping his side claim the Currie Cup title for the first time in 11 years.
Western Province's Eben Etzebeth, Sharks fly-half Patrick Lambie and teammates JP Pietersen and skipper Keegan Daniel were the other finalists.
The Sharks won the Team of the Year title after reaching both Currie Cup and Super 15 finals, with awards also for captain and loose forward Daniel (Super 15 Player of the Year), Pietersen (Players' Player of the Year) and coach John Plumtree.
New Springbok lock Etzebeth won the poll for Young Player of the Year after the 21-year-old's sterling performance in Tests against New Zealand, Australia, England and Argentina barely 18 months after playing in university leagues.
South African award winners
Player of the Year: Bryan Habana (Western Province)
Players' Player of the Year: JP Pietersen (Sharks)
Super 15 Player of the Year: Keegan Daniel (Sharks)
Currie Cup Player of the Year: Deon Fourie (Western Province)
Young Player of the Year: Eben Etzebeth
Coach of the Year: John Plumtree (Sharks)
Team of the Year: Sharks