Sponsored by the CVC Foundation, the new awards are part of Vodacom URC’s Take on Tomorrow campaign, which looks to inspire change through the power of rugby.
The Difference Maker Award will be presented to the player who has been recognised for outstanding commitment to a charitable or social cause, while the Community Impact Award will go to the team whose community programme has been recognised for its impact in their region/province.
The winners of these awards will receive £5,000 from the CVC Foundation, to donate to their cause of choice (player) or to invest in their community programme (team).
Now the list of nominees has been revealed, with six in each category.
For the Difference Maker Award, they are:
- Springbok skipper Siya Kolisi, from the Cell C Sharks
- Emirates Lions flanker Travis Gordon
- Ulster’s Irish international scrumhalf John Cooney
- Leinster flanker Alex Soroka
- Emirates Lions prop Asenathi Ntlabakanye
- Cardiff Rugby duo Max Llewellyn and Teddy Williams
As examples of the work being done, Rugby World Cup winner Kolisi has founded the Kolisi Foundation, which seeks to help people living in under-resourced communities in South Africa, while Cooney has been a supporter of Tackle Your Feelings, a mental health and well-being campaign.
Along with his family, Soroka started a GoFundMe page in aid of Kyiv’s Okhmadits Children’s Hospital in Ukraine, the birthplace of his brother and parents, with Ntlabakanye involved in work in the Bitou Municipality area of the Western Cape and Gordon supporting Thol’thuba Athletics.
For their part, Cardiff’s Llewellyn and Williams have taken significant roles in #StayStrongForOws, a campaign to raise funds for former Wales centre Owen Williams who suffered a catastrophic neck injury while playing for the club in 2014.
With the Community Impact Award, the nominees are the Cell C Sharks, Dragons RFC, Edinburgh Rugby, the Ospreys, the Vodacom Bulls and Cardiff Rugby for various programmes they have undertaken in their areas.
The Cell C Sharks set up the Hands of Hope campaign to help rebuild communities affected by the civil unrest in KwaZulu-Natal, while Dragons RFC are running 18 programmes through “Family of Provisions” encompassing sport, education, inclusion, community outreach, health and well-being.
Edinburgh Rugby’s Inclusive Programme involves both able bodied players and those with a physical or learning disability playing in one unified team, while Ospreys in the Community has positively impacted nearly 300,000 people’s lives through outreach programmes.
The Vodacom Bulls are supporting the Cancer Association of South Africa and PinkDrive by using rugby as a vehicle to address the need for easily accessible and more frequent cancer screenings, while Cardiff Rugby have established a Visually Impaired team, which plays in matches and inclusion festivals against a range of mixed ability teams.
The judging panel features World Cup final referee Nigel Owens, the CSR Manager at CVC Jane Howard, Sports Broadcaster Emma Dodds and URC Head of Operations Amy Monaghan.
The winners will be revealed on Wednesday, 21 December, with the award presentations to the winning club and player taking place ahead of games in Round 10, just before Christmas.
United Rugby Championship CEO Martin Anayi said: “We are acutely aware of the fantastic community programmes that our clubs have established locally and the deserving causes that our players contribute to as well. As a league, our mission is to celebrate and highlight their successes across our platforms.”
CVC CSR Manager Jane Howard said: "The CVC Foundation is delighted to be able to support the United Rugby Championship in their efforts to shine a light on the incredible work the clubs and players are doing to make an impact in their communities. CVC applauds the clubs and players in their efforts."
Full List Of Nominees:
Difference Maker Award
• Alex Soroka (Leinster)
• Asenathi Ntlabakanye (Emirates Lions)
• John Cooney (Ulster)
• Max Llewellyn (Cardiff Rugby)
• Siya Kolisi (Cell C Sharks)
• Teddy Williams (Cardiff Rugby)
• Travis Gordan (Emirates Lions)
Community Impact Award
• Cardiff Rugby
• Cell C Sharks
• Dragons RFC
• Edinburgh Rugby
• Vodacom Bulls