CAPE TOWN – That freakishly amazing offload against the Chiefs at Newlands might have set Dillyn Leyds’ year off to a great start, but that certainly wasn’t where it ended for the new Springbok.
In fact, it was only the first of many great moments for him.
Okay, so Leyds’ pass that put SP Marais away for the try (hereafter referred to as THAT pass), wasn’t the 25-year-old’s first memorable moment this year.
His first Super Rugby game after his lengthy 2016 injury – a game in which they beat their old foes at Newlands – was also up there when it comes to his 2017 highlights.
But just as that pass deserves a bit more credit due it being a piece of individual brilliance, so do the rest of his individual moments.
And him scooping three awards at the annual Western Province awards ceremony on Tuesday night is one of those top individual moments.
But Leyds doesn’t seem to think so – he doesn’t seem to think that those awards were a reward for “individual” success.
Actually, the skilful back believes that in a team full of deserving candidates, he’s “just the lucky one who walked away with the awards”.
At the event held at the Cape Sun, Leyds bagged the Most Valuable Player (MVP), Senior Player of the Year, and the Composure and Capability awards.
And after being asked to pose for more pictures and selfies after the night’s proceedings than what he can probably remember, Leyds said: “I think this whole year has been pretty special, especially after the setback I had last year.
“It’s never easy to come back from that sort of thing. It’s sort of a nice way of acknowledging the hard work that I’ve put in. But in saying that, none of this would have been possible without the team.
“The team have put in a lot of hard work, and I guess I’m just the lucky one who walked away with the awards.”
It really has been a special year for one of the Stormers and WP’s most experienced players in a relatively young group.
He’s set the field alight with the Stormers in Super Rugby (while standing in at fullback, flyhalf and wing), and another big moment came when he was called up to the Springbok squad for the three-Test series against Ireland in June.
But Leyds didn’t get to make a big impact in national colours, as his game time was kept to a minimum in those three games.
And it was the same during the early stages of the Rugby Championship, when Bok coach Allister Coetzee stuck to Courtnall Skosan and Raymond Rhule out wide.
But fast forward a couple of weeks, and the talented utility back finally got his starting chance against the Wallabies in Bloemfontein.
Against the All Blacks, he got that chance again. And he did not disappoint. Not at all.
But let’s not forget about Leyds’ Currie Cup productions, the ones in which he completely dismantled opposition defences, especially in broken play.
And now, after a stint with the Western Force in 2014 – one that Leyds believes made him “really work” for what he wanted – Springbok number 885 is keen to keep enjoying the game…just like he did as a “seven-year-old kid in Strand”.
“With my injury, I had a lot of time away from the game to think about where I can improve and where I can get better, and the one thing I said to myself was that it doesn’t matter if I’m playing or not, I just want to enjoy what I’m doing,” Leyds said.
“I think a lot of times before that, I put a lot of pressure on myself to play the perfect game every weekend, but obviously, in this industry, that’s never going to happen.
“So I went back to enjoying myself. I always want to feel like I’m that seven-year-old kid who started playing rugby in Strand, and I think that was important for me, just to get that enjoyment back.
“Those couple of months (in Perth) hanging around senior Wallabies and a couple of All Blacks as well… it just helped me so much to see how they go about things and in Perth it was all about the enjoyment of rugby.
“I definitely think the stint in Perth helped, and it took me out of my comfort zone and made me really work for what I wanted.”
Leyds started against the All Blacks this past weekend, when the Kiwis walked away with a narrow 25-24 win, and it was obviously a massive improvement from the 57-0 Albany catastrophe.
And although the Boks missed out on the win, Leyds reckons that their performance restored a lot of pride in the green-and-gold outfit.
“Obviously the result didn’t go our way at the weekend. No matter what the result was, we just wanted people to believe in the Springboks again.
“We showed a lot of character and put a lot of pride back into the jersey, and I think that was the end-goal.”
Just like the notion that Leyds fully deserves those three awards, nobody can argue with the man himself when he says the Boks showed a lot of character against the All Blacks. They certainly did.