Hacjivah Dayimani admits he is nervous as he readies himself for his return to sevens with the Academy this week. DYLAN JACK reports.
Dayimani has been named in an experienced Sevens Academy side to compete in an invitational tournament in Dubai this weekend. The squad will have a different feel to it with veterans such as Cecil Afrika, Werner Kok and Branco du Preez all included.
— Springbok Sevens (@Blitzboks) December 1, 2019
The event will not be Dayimani’s first foray into the shortened version of the game, as he was part of the SA U18 team that won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Samoa. However, nearly four years have passed since then as he opted to further his career as a loose forward in fifteens.
It has not been the easiest introduction for Dayimani as he says he initially struggled to adjust to the high intensity of the Blitzboks’ training and fitness sessions. Arriving at the set-up with an injury delayed his progress, but he says it also allowed him to take the time he needed to get used to how the Blitzboks train.
‘The only easy part about sevens is walking through the door and introducing yourself. After that, it is pure hard work,’ he says. ‘I tried my best to adapt, but it is tough when you are struggling to actually make it to a session.
‘Funnily, I feel like my injury kind of helped me because it allowed to ease myself in. When I joined the guys, the intensity was so high that I almost collapsed. It took me two or three weeks just to complete a session. I feel much better now, but it is still tough.
‘The nice thing is that even experienced guys like Cecil and Justin complain at times, then you feel a bit better when you complain. But seriously, there is nothing you can do about it because that is what the game demands.’
Much has been written about the Blitzboks’ tight-knit team culture and how it has and continues to aid the side. Dayimani admits he was initially taken aback by how close and open his teammates were when he arrived.
‘When I go to the Lions, I am always with a certain bunch of guys. Here it is different, I chill with everyone,’ Daymani says. ‘When I first got here, I was looking for a clique to chill with, but guys would just sit next to me and talk to me. I am friends with guys that I never thought I would be friends with. On the field, when you do something good, guys will come up to you and tell you that was good.
‘Guys encourage you to do good. Even when you mess up, they will tell you but nothing is personal. That is something the sevens does well, that togetherness. We are trying to create leaders, not followers, here. Even with something as simple as the water system. I was shocked that when it came to a water break, the experienced guys would want the new players to drink first, showing that selflessness. It has taught me a lot. It is not about you, it is about the system.
‘It is very unique. After every training session, Cecil will come up to me and ask if I know what I need to. We call him “the Playbook” because he knows it inside and out. He keeps on nagging and it gets to the point where you tell him that you know the thing. But it just shows you how much they care about the system, that they want you to be on the same page. Even on something small, like cleaning a ruck.’
With as much resting on whether each individual does his job in the system, Dayimani admits he is nervous about potentially being shown up this weekend, but excited at the same time to share the field with the veterans.
‘Everything in sevens is one on one. It is based on individuals. You need to beat your man or make a hit on your man. There is nowhere to hide. If someone is quicker than you, then they can expose you. If you have a weakness passing left or right, you will get exposed. The margin of error is so much smaller here. In fifteens, you can hide a bit.
‘I played my first sevens game in a while [last] Tuesday. It was tough, but not as difficult as the training. I am very nervous, to be honest. I don’t know what to expect. It is tough because everything is a one-on-one. I am nervous that someone might just take me on and might just burn me on the outside or step me on the inside. I don’t know anyone on the circuit. But luckily I have guys like Werner who keep on helping me on the field. I am so excited to play that first tournament.
‘Sevens has helped me to improve as a player. At the moment, I am in the best shape of my life. I have never felt this good about my weight. Even if I don’t make the team, I couldn’t ask for more. When it comes to running, tackling, stealing ball, fitness, I feel like I am improving so much.’