La Rochelle-bound Dillyn Leyds says former Stormers roommate Cheslin Kolbe has been a massive help in easing the uncertainty over his move to France. DYLAN JACK reports.
Leyds will be leaving his home in the Western Cape for a change of scenery in the La Rochelle region of France. The backline player signed for the Top 14 side back in March.
However, moving across has been made all the more difficult as international borders remain closed due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The 27-year-old told SARugbymag.co.za that Kolbe – who played for Toulouse for the last three years – has helped ease his concerns about uprooting and making the move north.
‘He has been the one guy that I go to with any questions that I have. He was the guy I approached when the whole La Rochelle thing came about,’ Leyds said of his former teammate.
‘It is nice because during our time at the Stormers we were roommates, so we got quite close and had conversations about anything happening in our lives. It is nice that I can still reach out to him and ask him how things are over there.
‘It has been really good to have his input. We have already figured out that Toulouse is only a couple of hours away, so luckily we will get to spend a bit more time together. His wife, Layla, has been really nice and chatted to my girlfriend and gave her advice about what you can expect. It is obviously a difficult time for both of them – moving to a new country, not really having any friends. Whereas Cheslin and I can go to training, meet teammates and that makes the transition a bit easier. But our partners are probably not going to have such a smooth transition. Cheslin and Layla have been so helpful to me and my girlfriend.
‘For him, it is a whole different experience because he is basically the president of France,’ Leyds joked. ‘He can literally end the lockdown now if he wanted just by sending a message.’
As far as when he can begin the move to France, Leyds admits that the ongoing travel restrictions due to Covid-19 means everything is still up in the air.
He added that La Rochelle had already started helping with the challenge of finding a new place to live and that a number of South Africans based in the city had also reached out to him.
‘Obviously for me there is a lot of uncertainty, about when I will be leaving and stuff like that. What has been really nice, though, is the club has been in constant contact with me. Just letting me know if anything happens over there, so that I can stay updated. They said the borders over there might open in the middle or towards the end of June, but obviously it could be a different situation here so I won’t be able to fly out. They understand the whole situation.
‘They are busy putting together a couple of options together for me and my girlfriend to look at. We will choose the one we like the most and go with that one. They have also sent us a few links where we can do our own research. But it is a bit difficult because we just don’t know the area.
‘I must say, in the last two weeks, three South Africans who stay in La Rochelle actually reached out to me just to say if I do need any help with anything or when I do get over there, they would like to meet up with me. So, it has been really nice.’
With a move to a new country comes mastering the local language. Leyds joked that French lessons were such a challenge that he may need to get his girlfriend to translate his first few training sessions.
‘Let me tell you, after a tough day of training here at home, I get that time after dinner where I just want to chill and then my girlfriend gives me a look and I know that we have to do French lessons,’ Leyds said. ‘It has been quite fun. We try and speak to each other before bed or greet each other in French in the morning. I suppose that is as far as we have got at the moment. We try to do French lessons for at least half an hour to an hour every day.
‘It is tough. I’ve been telling my mates that I think I need to drag my girlfriend with me to training, because she is nailing it at the moment.’