Aphiwe Dyantyi must be well managed to ensure he performs at his peak at the 2019 World Cup, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The meteoric rise of Dyantyi has been the good-news story of 2018 for South African rugby. By now, it’s a tale well told. After failing to make the Dale College 1st XV in matric, Dyantyi opted to hang up his boots and focus on his tertiary studies.
However, some social rugby saw the youngster rediscover his love for the game. From there, he sped through the ranks, starring for UJ in the Varsity Cup before making his Currie Cup debut last year, which subsequently led to a dream debut season in Super Rugby in 2018.
From one stage to the next, Dyantyi has dazzled. Going into the end-of-year tour, the 24-year-old had scored six tries in nine Tests, while producing a standout performance in the Boks’ win over the All Blacks in Wellington.
At the end of October, the talented wing was named as one of three candidates for World Rugby’s Breakthrough Player of the Year award. Although nominated alongside highly-regarded Ireland wing Jordan Larmour and All Blacks prop Karl Tu’inukuafe, there will be very few arguments should Dyantyi walk away with the award on 25 November. Previous winners include New Zealand’s 2015 World Cup winner Nehe Milner-Skudder, England forward Maro Itoje and All Blacks superstar Rieko Ioane.
To follow in their footsteps would be another headline achievement in the remarkable Dyantyi story, but it’s also worth bearing in mind just how important it is for South African rugby to protect and preserve such a prized asset.
Dyantyi banked a reasonable 982 minutes of game time in Super Rugby in 2018. Yet over the course of the three-match June Test series against England and the Rugby Championship, he was involved for almost every minute of action (700 out of 720).
With this in mind, it was quite a surprise to see Dyantyi released back to the Golden Lions towards the end of the Currie Cup, with the wing starting in their semi-final against the Sharks. In fairness, it was one of the very few games where his performance was uncharacteristically lacklustre. Besides being stepped by opposite number S’bu Nkosi on his way to scoring a try, Dyantyi was also unexpectedly chased down by Aphelele Fassi after claiming a clean intercept.
This is not a criticism, but it is a warning sign that should be heeded in the lead-up to the 2019 World Cup. The last thing the Boks will want is for a battle-weary Dyantyi to arrive in Japan suffering burnout.
It’s crucial that SA Rugby gets the buy-in from the Super Rugby franchises to carefully manage the game time of frontline Boks in 2019. To have a player like Dyantyi fit and in form at the World Cup could make all the difference to the Springboks’ campaign.
The good news in this regard is that Bok coaching consultant Swys de Bruin also serves as the Lions’ head coach, and he will be mindful of the needs of the national team. Fortunately, the Johannesburg-based side is also blessed with good depth on the wing, with Courtnall Skosan, Madosh Tambwe, Ruan Combrinck, Sylvian Mahuza and even Wandisile Simelane offering options out wide.
That should allow for Dyantyi to be rested where necessary, while the Boks will be able to be selective when it comes to pressing him into action during a truncated Rugby Championship.
The priority for the Springboks should be to ensure they have a full-strength squad peaking at just the right time, and in what is likely to be a youthful backline, it will be integral to have their most potent attacking weapon firing on all cylinders.
Photo: Anton Geyser/Gallo Images