No second-season blues for Bok, Lions flyer Dyantyi

    2019-02-06 12:23

    Brenden Nel - SuperSport

    Johannesburg - It’s hard not to be excited for Aphiwe Dyantyi's second season of Super Rugby.

    The rise to fame of South Africa’s most promising speedster, the breakthrough year of 2018 and the rise and rise of a player determined to succeed paved the road for so many accolades, culminating in the honour of being named World Rugby’s breakthrough player of the year a few months back.

    It was a whirlwind of action, from the first time he donned the Lions jersey to the now infamous shoot-out in Wellington to cause Damian McKenzie to knock the ball on and give the Springboks a rare - and crucial victory in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

    For the player who never chose rugby as a career, stumbled upon it through mates egging him on to play a bit at hostel level, and finding a path to blitz his way to the top, the dreaded second season blues may linger, but he is someone who firmly takes it in his stride.

    Dyantyi has the unique feature of having scored a try on debut on every level he has played in the game, including Super Rugby and for the Springboks.

    So now that he has been recognised by World Rugby as a potential superstar, how does the speedster improve on it in 2019.

    "I don't think you can ever repeat that, it is more for me to try and keep on improving. If I say I'm going to try and repeat that it means no growth - I'm definitely looking for growth, to be better, to make the guys around me look better and they make me look better," he told this week on the back of winning the Lions Super Rugby backline player of the year award for last season.

    "I just want to improve as a player and serve the team more, keep on growing and learn from the guys around me. There are guys who have done this longer than me. For me to try and maintain and keep that steady growth is important.

    "I think another thing that helps is we have a lot of quality outside backs and we don't compete to be better than each other, we compete to make each other better. This is something I learnt at the Lions and I cherish. This is a culture I've adopted and pledged myself to, even to the young guys who are coming in as well. I'm looking to make them good as well, wherever they need help. I guess it is a family affair, I'm just excited for the season and the opportunities that are coming in."

    If the quotes sound like stock public relations quote, that's because while some may get nervous with the media, the smile on Dyantyi's face exudes calmness. Like he has been preparing for this moment his whole life.

    With all the focus on the Superhero Sunday clash that has just passed, many still believe that his try-scoring celebrations is borrowed from Black Panther - the Wakanda Forever embrace - but while Dyantyi smiles and reminds us it isn't about that, he's also fine with letting the fable continue.

    "If the shoe fits," he smiles.

    The celebration came to him through his childhood, and is a mixture of inspiration of Tana Umaga's passionate haka for the All Blacks and Masai warrior tradition in Kenya. All in all he incorporates it to be his own.

    "The story behind it is that when I was growing up, I watched a lot of rugby with my brothers," he told media ahead of the All Black clash at Loftus Versfeld last year.

    “As any spectator, one of the greatest moments is marvelling at the haka, and it was no different for me."

    "Tana did it with so much passion, I kind of got it from there. I then tried to take it and make it my own, and incorporate it into who Aphiwe is.

    “When I was in Grade 7, I watched this movie. In it, there was a kid from the royal family who has to go through an initiation process into manhood," said Dyantyi.

    "The kid goes out into the wild and he faces a lion that he goes on to defeat. He did a similar sort of thing in terms of celebrating, and it's also where I drew my inspiration. It’s kind of like conquering lions."

    The World Cup awaits and if 2018 is anything to go by, Dyantyi will be jetting off to Japan in the Green and Gold. For now though, that's the last thing on his mind.

    "It will sound cliché when I say I don’t want to focus too much on that, I'd rather focus on what I am doing now. Again, prepare for the game, and Super Rugby and if I earn my stripes there, I'll earn my stripes in the position, and in the team. I guess it's true what they say you've got to keep the kiss off - so I've got to do well for the team here to stand a chance to be anywhere near to the World Cup squad."

    Dyantyi still comes across as humble, although he admits he is still getting used to the attention.

    "Having to be stopped as often as I have been recently, compared to a couple of years ago, that's the major difference," he smiles.

    But the grounding he has plays a massive role in his life, and as he points out, growing is a process. And in growing as a player, as a person, he has learnt two fundamental things.

    "Two things that are very important that I was reminded about and have been instilled in me - One is respect - we come from very diverse cultures, from very different backgrounds and at the end of the day we need to respect each other and each others differences. Where it matters is on the field as a collective. When I talk about respect it is about accountability, because when you do things it is not for yourself, it is for the team and that is one major thing that the Lions has taught me.

    "(Two) and if you love something and have been passionate about it, the last few years my passion has been sport has really merged and I am really enjoying the space I’m in and playing rugby. I enjoy being on the field, I prefer being on the field.”

    It's hard to repeat the fairy tale of 2018 for Dyantyi. But that’s okay as well. 2019 is a new chapter and he is firmly focused on writing a new story with both his Lions and Springbok team-mates.

    Determination is a funny thing, especially with athletes like the Bok winger. Once he’s put his mind to it, there will be few things that will stop him.

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