JOHANNESBURG – When you consider what Aphiwe Dyantyi has gone through in the last few years it is most apt the 24-year-old won “Breakthrough Player of the Year” at World Rugby’s annual awards ceremony in Monte Carlo on Sunday night.
It was only a few years ago when he had to deal with being told he was too small to play first team rugby, something that crushed his confidence and shattered his rugby hopes and dreams, and forced him to give up the game.
That was in his matric year at Dale College, but now six years on Dyantyi is one of the most promising and recognisable players in the game … and a household name in South Africa. Talk about a “breakthrough”!
Dyantyi has literally kicked the door down and barged through it after being given a chance to play Currie Cup rugby by Swys de Bruin last season and then being handed an opportunity in Super Rugby earlier this year when Courtnall Skosan was injured.
In the Currie Cup last year Dyantyi impressed by scoring six tries in eight starts and then in Super Rugby this year grabbed seven tries as he helped his team reach a third straight final.
It was evident after just a handful of rounds of Super Rugby that South Africa had a new star in the making, and that Dyantyi was on the road to super stardom.
When contacted by The Star earlier this season, Dale College rugby director Grant Griffith laughed off suggestions he’d erred by not giving Dyantyi an opportunity in the first team in his matric year, but added he was pleased the young winger had made it “big”.
“The thing is Aphiwe was so much smaller than the other guys because he was a year younger than everyone else in matric. Also, he was a flyhalf at that stage and we had a guy there who’d been in the position for two seasons,” said Griffith.
“Aphiwe didn’t make the first team simply because there was someone better than him in the queue.
“But from what I’ve seen (in Super Rugby) he’s got a massive future ahead of him. He’s got everything to take that big step up to be successful at the highest level … discipline, hard work and dedication.”
Griffth added at the time: “I’m thrilled for him. It just shows that even if you don’t crack it at school level, if you want something and you’re prepared to work for it, you can achieve your goal. Aphiwe is the perfect example of grabbing your chance when it comes.”
A sensational Super Rugby season convinced national coach Rassie Erasmus he needed Dyantyi in his squad for the England series in June ... and how the young flier repaid that faith shown in him.
The Lions man scored a try on debut and helped the Boks bag the series before the third Test in Cape Town and Dyantyi would later also star in the Rugby Championship. He scored a try against Argentina in Durban and then he bagged a brilliant brace in the wonderful win in Wellington as the Boks downed the All Blacks.
Dyantyi had become a world star after just a handful of Tests; his “chest ripping” try-celebration now famous in every rugby corner of the world.
At 24, Dyantyi has several Test years ahead of him, and it’s surely only going to be a matter of “when” and not “if” he follows in the footsteps of another great No 11, Bryan Habana, in being named World Player of the Year.@jacq_west