JOHANNESBURG – “Now I’m going to give it everything to be a part of that squad,” said 20-year-old Golden Lions loose forward Hacjivah Dayimani this week after hearing the news that South Africa is the preferred candidate to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup (RWC).
Dayimani is just one of thousands of young rugby players in the country who probably said and thought the same thing. They’ll all want to be part of the Bok squad should South Africa win the right to host the RWC.
If everything goes to plan, South Africa will organise and host the rugby showpiece in six years' time, 28 years after Francois Pienaar’s squad beat the All Blacks at Ellis Park in the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
The world governing body will announce the successful bidder on November 15, but this week’s endorsement of South Africa means something quite drastic will have to happen for Ireland or France to snatch the rights to host the RWC.
Dayimani, who has represented the Lions at all levels in junior rugby and played for SA Schools in 2015, said playing for the Boks in six years' time in the RWC, on home soil, would make his rugby dream come true.
“I’m very excited about this announcement. It’s one of the biggest things in my life working towards achieving my goal of playing for the Boks. I’m going to do everything I can to get into the Bok squad in the coming years,” he said.
“All the youngsters around my age now have something to work towards. Also, there’s a reason to stay in South Africa, to play rugby here. It would be stupid for anyone to now think of going overseas.”
Interestingly, Dayimani’s story of how he got hooked on rugby is similar to legendary Bok wing Bryan Habana's - and it’s all got to do with the RWC tournament.
Habana, the Boks’ leading all-time try-scorer, fell in love with the game after watching Pienaar’s team go through the 1995 tournament unbeaten.
He was a football follower but “something started to boil inside me”, Habana told ESPN a few years ago when he watched the final at Ellis Park with his dad as a 12-year-old.
“It was awesome. I looked at my dad afterwards and said, ‘Dad, I want to play this game'." And he did. Many years later Dayimani saw Habana scoring tries at the 2007 World Cup in France and decided he too wanted to get in the scrum.
“I wasn’t born yet when the Boks won in 1995 and the only player from that team that I know is James Dalton because he went to my school (Jeppe). But I’ve heard it was a special time in this country.
“I got inspired when I watched the 2007 World Cup as a 10-year-old in Cape Town.
"I remember watching Bryan Habana and his diving over the tryline to score all those wonderful tries. I’d go to my room and dive on the bed and think I was him. I wanted to be a wing, too. I was hooked.”
Dayimani gave up soccer to play rugby.
He, however, wasn't able to fulfil his dream of being a “Habana” as his tall frame meant coaches employed him at lock in his youth. In Grade 9, he found a home at flank, a position in which he excelled, but he still has a dream of being a wing.
“There’s been talk about moving on to the wing. I don’t know in what position I’m going to end up, but I do know where I’ll be in six years, and I can’t wait to start this journey to that World Cup.”