CAPE TOWN – First of all, he carries the ball in two hands.
Then, he runs on to the shoulder of the defender lining up to tackle him, to ensure that his hands are freed up to get the offload away.
The name of Dillyn Leyds’ game is to keep the ball alive. At all costs. Which is why he is the footballer Allister Coetzee must introduce to the Springbok team for the June Test series against France.
The Boks have been crying out for someone like Leyds in the back-three. Willie le Roux tried, but his kicking game let him down in between the magical moments, while he was sometimes guilty of not “putting his body on the line” when the going got tough.
And that silky touch appeared to desert him in the last few months of the 2016 Bok season, although he will hope to rediscover it in his new Wasps hive.
But back to Leyds. The enigmatic Stormers No 15 is comfortable on either wing, as well as flyhalf. He is a mix of all three for the Cape side, and has been a force on attack and in defence in the first four Super Rugby games of 2017.
It was a big loss for coach Robbie Fleck when the former SA Under-20 star (of the 2012 World Cup-winning side) from Strand picked up a “freakish” knee injury during practice last March, which ended up being a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear – the worst possible knee problem that rules players out for between six and nine months.
Leyds made his comeback in a warm-up game against SWD in George in late January this year, and has becoming more influential with every game.
The confidence that comes with regular playing time, a chance in the overall approach of the Stormers and an opportunity to set the tone for the team – whether at wing or fullback – has seen Leyds take command.
Whenever he gets the ball in his hands, something happens – and it’s usually positive. He cuts the line often, he draws defenders to put teammates away, and as he showed in that amazing try “from the end of the earth” against the Sunwolves, he possesses a serious side-step and good pace as he benefited from Seabelo Senatla’s sevens skills inside his own 22 to spark the try for EW Viljoen.
Leyds also has a strong boot and is committed on defence – although his one-on-one tackling still needs work – and he is not scared to get up into the air to claim a high ball.
And what perhaps sets him apart from other, even younger, fresh attacking talents around the country – such as Curwin Bosch, Warrick Gelant, Jamba Ulengo, Malcolm Jaer – is that Leyds has experienced adversity in his career already.
With Cheslin Kolbe taking over the Stormers fullback berth from Gio Aplon in recent years, Leyds had to move to Perth to get some Super Rugby action with the Western Force.
He only played in three games, but also participated in their version of the Currie Cup. And being out of his comfort zone socially in Cape Town would’ve also developed his character.
Other starting SA Super Rugby fullbacks at the moment are Andries Coetzee and Clayton Blommetjies, but neither comes close to Leyds’ level.
Leyds has taken the first step to Springbok selection by being included in the training squad for the camp in Stellenbosch, which starts on Sunday.
He needs to catch the eye of Coetzee and the rest of the management over those three days. But his next major challenge is to continue his success in upcoming games against the Lions, and the four Kiwi giants – Chiefs at Newlands, and the Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes in New Zealand.
If Leyds gets through this phase with his reputation enhanced, he should have the inside track to the Bok No 15 jersey (or even No 14 if needed) for the first French Test on June 10 at Loftus Versfeld.
But whatever happens in the next few months on the national front, there’s no doubting that this ’baller’s got game…