Johannesburg - Hacjivah Dayimani, the dynamic young loose forward who made his debut as a Lions replacement in their opening Super Rugby game against the Sharks last month, quietly slipped into the national sevens set-up this week.
Given that the Blitzboks had made polite enquiries about the possibility of his joining them after his performances lit up the Currie Cup last year, the 20-year-old’s belated arrival sounds like a happy case of all’s well that ends well.
But, by the sounds of it, there is more to the young No & packing for Stellenbosch than meets the eye. Dayimani apparently asked to be released to join Neil Powell and co because the Lions want him to play wing, a move he is not sold on.
It turns out that the youngster, whose first act on debut was to win the late ruck penalty that won the Lions a close game against the Sharks, stupidly expected to be the first cab out of the taxi rank to replace the injured Warren Whiteley as the only number eight remaining in the Lions squad.
But Lions coach Swys de Bruin had other ideas, preferring Kwagga Smith and Len Massyn instead, and dropping Dayimani to the Lions’ SuperSport Rugby Challenge squad, where he turned out on the wing against the Griffons last weekend.
On the face of it, there is not much wrong with the Lions’ thinking: the rangy Dayimani (he is 1.89m tall and 101kg) has Usain Bolt-esque speed, the explosiveness of an NFL player, the feet of a Pacific Islands backline player and a basketballer’s hands.
Simply put, moving him to the wing would be South Africa’s answer to New Zealand’s skilful behemoths out wide. And, in fairness to De Bruin, he has always telegraphed his intention to try Dayimani out in the back line (outside centre was also mentioned) due to his being “a footballer” with the game sense to make the experiment work.
But even in these days in which positional switches are in vogue in the country, the player has to buy into these experiments if any are to take hold. Apparently the youngster has made it clear that he feels his natural athleticism and feet give him a significant advantage at loose forward.
And, as a smart, gifted and ambitious youngster, one can imagine that, in sounding keen on the plan to banish him to wing, Dayimani was keeping his options open. But who can blame him for wanting first consideration once Whiteley left an opening for a spot he earned with encouraging performances?
Also, vain attempts had already been made to move him to the backline at Jeppe Boys High, where he was running 10.70 seconds and 21 seconds in the 100m and 200m, respectively, and he turned down the Sharks when they tried to sign him as a winger.
The point to positional switches is finding the quickest way to advance the player’s career – a bit like Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus feels that moving Thomas du Toit to tight head prop is the easiest way into the Bok team.
Moving Dayimani to wing makes him sixth on the list at the Lions – behind Aphiwe Dyantyi, Sylvian Mahuza, Courtnall Skosan, Ruan Combrinck and Madosh Tambwe – when, as a number eight, he should be the incumbent.
There are grumbles about Dayimani’s inability to play the grinding game, something that lost him a place in last year’s SA Under-20 side to the likes of Juarno Augustus. But, at 20, surely that is merely a work-on he can aspire to like all players do?
Also, it’s one thing to move a player among the props, locks and loose forwards, but shuttling him between the forwards and the backs can be detrimental to his development. If anyone needs reminding, former Stormers No 8 Nick Koster remains a cautionary tale in this regard.
And one has to ask that if the Lions were hatching this plan the whole time, why did they refuse to release Dayimani when the national sevens coaches came knocking last year? The irony is that the sevens stint will improve Dayimani for both his preferred position and the one he is being force-fed.
But the question to ask is, when the coaches make these decisions, whose interests do they have at heart?
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