Leyds knocking on Springbok door

    2017-04-18 16:19

    Cape Town - For a number of players in the current Stormers squad, this is the first time they have been on a tour of New Zealand. 

    That is due largely to the fact that, in 2016, coach Robbie Fleck's men skipped New Zealand opposition throughout regular season before they were smashed 60-21 by the Chiefs at Newlands in the quarter-finals. 

    It is a young group of players, and while there is experience in the pack with the likes of Siya Kolisi, Nizaam Carr and Eben Etzebeth, many of these Stormers are about to experience for the first time just how tough Super Rugby can get. 

    Fixtures against the Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes await over the next three weekends in a run of fixtures that is about as difficult as it gets. 

    On Saturday they are in Christchurch for a date with the only undefeated side left in this year's competition. 

    For Stormers wing Dillyn Leyds, it is a return to the ground where he made his Super Rugby debut with the Western Force back in 2014. 

    Leyds' stay with the Force was brief, and on that day he came off the bench as his side lost 30-7. 

    He returned to Cape Town in 2015, and he has not looked back since. 

    A versatile player with speed in abundance, Leyds was impressive in 2016 and has been even better this year. 

    He wants to play at flyhalf or fullback, and he can, but it is on the left wing where he has shone so far in 2017, scoring five tries in his seven appearances. 

    The highlight is surely his famous 'back-of-the-hand' pass against the Chiefs at Newlands two weekends ago when he set up SP Marais for a Stormers try that will be remembered for a long, long time. 

    "I think I put it down to a calculated risk going 100% right," Leyds said on Tuesday when recalling that try.

    "I don't quite know what I was thinking at that time but I just backed myself to do it and luckily it came off."

    As good as that try was, Leyds is about far more than one flashy moment of brilliance. 

    He prides himself on his kicking game, he has an x-factor that can create chances out of very little and he is seriously quick. 

    It has all contributed to a first half of the season in which he has been noticed. 

    On Saturday he was at it again, scoring the Stormers' only try of the match in their loss to the Lions when he kicked ahead down the left touchline, regathered and sped his way to the whitewash. 

    Now 24-years-old, Leyds has played his way into the Springbok conversation as three Tests against the French in June draw near. 

    Despite having been invited to Allister Coetzee's Bok training camp in Stellenbosch earlier this month, Leyds insists he does not have a Bok call-up on his mind. 

    "Not really. Coming back from quite a serious injury all I wanted to do was get some game time for the Stormers and that's been going well for the moment," he said.

    "My goal every week is just to be in that starting line-up and fortunately that's been happening.

    "Ultimately I think that's (Bok selection) an uncontrollable. What I can focus on is to keep playing well and to keep performing in my role for the Stormers. The rest will take care of itself but I'm not getting ahead of myself."

    It's probably not the worst mind-set to have. If Leyds keeps up his form at Super Rugby level, he will surely not go unnoticed in the national set-up, especially considering the need for new talent on the wings as Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen enter the twilight of their careers. 

    For now, through, he must focus on the Crusaders this weekend. 

    Having impressed with their ball-in-hand, off-loading approach, the Stormers may have significantly less scoring opportunities against the Kiwi sides on their tour. 

    But Leyds insists they will keep playing the brand of rugby that has quickly enhanced the reputation of this group of players and their young coach. 

    "I don't think one loss is going to put us back into our shell," said Leyds.

    "We still want to play the brand we've been working on and training hard for.

    "For us it's about growing as individuals and as a team ... we want to go out there and play some rugby.

    "We're embracing this challenge and ultimately it's a learning curve for everyone. We're all young and we want to see what we're capable of doing against the so-called best rugby playing nation in the world."

    Kick-off on Saturday is at 09:35.

    Stormers touring squad:

    Bjorn Basson, Nizaam Carr, Kurt Coleman, Jan de Klerk, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Dan du Plessis, Robert du Preez, Dewaldt Duvenage, Eben Etzebeth, JC Janse van Rensburg, Oli Kebble, Cheslin Kolbe, Siya Kolisi, Dan Kriel, Dillyn Leyds, Wilco Louw, Frans Malherbe, SP Marais, Bongi Mbonambi, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Ramone Samuels, Shaun Treeby, Chris van Zyl, Alistair Vermaak, Jano Vermaak, EW Viljoen, Cobus Wiese

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    Friday, 31 January 2020
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