PRETORIA – There is a little-known village between Engcobo and Mthatha in the Eastern Cape called Coghlan.
It is one of those hamlets that if you blink, you are most certainly going to miss it.
The run-down shops, garage and dusty streets are swallowed by the sea of poverty and underdevelopment that makes up the rural landscape of the former Transkei.
But that all changed on Sunday night in the far away principality of Monte Carlo where Coghlan’s brightest export and star stood speechless in the adoration of World Rugby’s royalty, even though the game that made him an instant global superstar long considered him a pauper in South Africa.
Springbok wing sensation Aphiwe Dyantyi once again reminded the world that it is not where you come from and what skin colour you are that will determine what you become in life.
As Dyantyi walked onto stage to pick up the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year he looked lost, out of place and out of words at how quickly life had changed from running around his parents’ modest yard in Coghlan to having the world at his feet.
And it has been his feet that have had the rugby world in awe since he broke through the ranks for the Lions in Super Rugby, making his Test debut against England in June and scoring two magical tries against the All Blacks in Wellington this year.
Reaction from Aphiwe Dyantyi after he won the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year 2018 award in Association with Tudor pic.twitter.com/c8br9asHJL— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) November 25, 2018
Dyantyi is not a man of many words, but when he does speak it is often profound.
But it is on the rugby field where he has done a lot of his talking with his mesmerising skills, lightning quick speed and a natural feel for the game.
Dyantyi though is not a rare gem, there are many like him who come from far flung unknown rural towns and still need to be found by rugby.
What is even more heart-warming about Dyantyi’s meteoric rise is that he never played first team rugby during his school days at Dale College.
Dyantyi was lost to the game for a few years after completing his matric until the timely intervention of Chulumanco Macingwane who encouraged him to play again.
And with the unwavering support of his three brothers and parents, Dyantyi has been a star in the making through all the levels of rugby since kick starting his career playing koshuis rugby.
Dyantyi’s road to rugby stardom may not be as glittering as many of those who have worn the Bok jersey in the past.
But it is one worth telling to inspire the thousands of kids who have a dream to be a Bok that no matter your circumstances or where you come from, your dreams can still come true.
Dyantyi is a reminder to SA rugby that there is still more to be done in taking rugby to the people and the time has long gone that rugby opens itself up to everyone regardless of what they look like or come from.
As the people of Engcobo often say “iNgcobo yidolophu nayo” (Engcobo is also a town), Dyantyi has elevated the status of Coghlan into “idolophu”.
Halala Qwathi, you are part of rugby royalty and nobody will dare blink when stopping in Coghlan!@Vata_Ngobeni