Craig Lewis

Leyds loving his rugby

Dillyn Leyds in action for the Boks Dillyn Leyds in action for the Boks

Dillyn Leyds’ ascension to a starting role with the Springboks has widely exceeded expectations that even he held at the beginning of the year, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

Last year the talented 24-year-old spent a lengthy spell on the sidelines as he recovered from a serious knee injury, and started 2017 with the simple desire of making a successful return to the rugby field.

Yet, in the whirlwind of the past 10 months, Leyds played a starring role for the Stormers in Super Rugby, before earning a call-up to the Springboks, where he featured off the bench in three Tests against France in June.

Leyds was then elevated to a starting berth for the final two Rugby Championship Tests, while only this past week he was the big winner at the Western Province RFU awards ceremony, where he was named Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player.

Speaking at the awards dinner, Leyds said that last year’s injury-enforced absence from the game had ultimately proved to be a career-defining time, as he realigned his ambitions and outlook on the game.

‘I had a lot of time to think about where I can improve and can get better, and the one thing I said to myself was that it doesn’t matter if I’m playing or not, I just want to enjoy what I’m doing.

‘I think a lot of times before that, I put a lot of pressure on myself to play the perfect game every weekend, but obviously in this industry that’s never going to happen. So I went back to enjoying myself.

'I always want to feel like I’m that seven-year-old kid who started playing rugby in the Strand, and I think that was important for me, just to get that enjoyment back.’

Indeed, Leyds' journey to earning Springbok honours can be traced back to his childhood days, where he could often be found running up and down the touchlines supporting his father and cousins, who played club rugby in the Western Cape.

His love for the game only strengthened during his days at renowned rugby school Bishops, while he rapidly progressed through the Western Province rugby ranks from there.

Throughout his career, Leyds has demonstrated his ability to feature in various positions in the backline, but when SA Rugby magazine caught up with Leyds after Super Rugby, he admitted he may need to specialise, sooner rather than later.

‘I’ve enjoyed being able to contribute in different positions where required, but settling in one spot is a discussion that does need to take place,’ Leyds commented. ‘There are pros and cons to being seen as a utility player, so I do need to give it some thought, and chat with the coaches about where they see my future. I don’t have a particular preference right now, though.’

As it is, Leyds looks set to continue on the wing when the Boks head to Europe for their four-Test end-of-year tour, which kicks off with a clash against Ireland on 11 November. The squad for that tour is expected to be announced following the Currie Cup final at the end of October.

FEATURE: Leyds the magic man

Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

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