JOHANNESBURG – With up to 20 first-choice players missing, the Lions are banking on a big group of youngsters to get them through the Currie Cup competition, and leading the way is 19-year-old loose-forward Hacjivah Dayimani.
The former Jeppe scholar, who only wrote matric last year, is one of several promising stars at the Lions.
Some of the others are wing Madosh Tambwe (19), centre Manny Rass (19) – both of whom were also still at school last year – wing Aphiwe Dyantyi (19), flyhalf Ashlon Davids (24) and scrumhalf Marco Jansen van Vuren (20).
But it’s been Dayimani who’s really caught the eye in the last few rounds of the Currie Cup. While he’s played only off the bench and hasn’t helped the Lions to a win – yet – his impact has been immense.
He’s got stuck in from the get-go; busting tackles and making plenty of metres, his powerful runs and quality offloads benefiting those around him. It’s no surprise Lions boss Swys de Bruin is excited about the youngster.
Dayimani himself can’t quite believe he’s playing Currie Cup rugby for the Lions.
“It’s an honour being here. I suppose I should still be with the Under-21s, but coach Swys has given me a chance and all I want to do is showcase my talent,” said the man who’s gained the nickname of “Over-ajivah” (or, rather, “over-achiever”) since joining the union.
He said the fact he missed out on being selected for the South Africa Under-20 squad earlier this year has driven him to focus on bigger things.
“Look, it was hugely disappointing missing out. But there’s nothing I could have done about it. I came back to the Lions and decided I could either sulk about it or pull up my socks and play. I did the latter ... I’ve grinded it out and worked my way through the ranks here, and now I have this wonderful opportunity in front of me.”
The rangy back-row man, who’s got a real turn of speed, said it was somewhat disconcerting knowing he was training and playing alongside a bunch of men whose posters he had pinned up on his bedroom wall just a year ago.
“Some of my biggest heroes are right here in this team,” chuckled Dayimani.
“Guys like Antony Volmink, Kwagga Smith... I can’t believe I’m playing with them, in the same team... I had their pictures on my bedroom wall. This is life-changing for me.”
De Bruin said he wouldn’t push his young star, who can virtually play anywhere in the back row and in the backs, into a specific position. “I’m reluctant to make them fit into a certain position,” said De Bruin.
“He’ll find where he’s comfortable and best suited. He can play anywhere in the loose trio, like a Kwagga Smith, even 13 and wing. The thing is, Hacjivah is a footballer.”
The Lions will hope for some more of the Hacjivah-magic today as they welcome the Pumas to Ellis Park for a round seven Currie Cup clash.
The Lions go into the game with just one win from six outings, while the visitors are three from six.
Kick-off is 2pm.