JOHANNESBURG – One of the finds of the 2018 season, Aphiwe Dyantyi, has joined the Lions Down Under where they are preparing for Saturday’s Super Rugby match against the 2016 champions the Hurricanes in Wellington.
The 23-year-old last played for the Lions in the Super Rugby competition on March 23, when the team crashed to the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.
He picked up a pectoral muscle injury during that game, and only returned to action this past weekend, for the Golden Lions, in the SuperSport Challenge (in the loss to the Pumas).
Before his injury, wing Dyantyi – who was also recently called up by new Springbok boss Rassie Erasmus to be part of a three-day alignment camp ahead of the Test season – was in sensational form, helping his team get wins against the Sharks, Jaguares (in Joburg, where he scored two tries), Bulls and Sunwolves.
He is almost certain to feature against the Hurricanes this weekend as the Lions look to bounce back after the unexpected loss against the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday.
Their poor first-half showing, which saw the competition runners-up from last year go 24-0 down at the break, remains a mystery and pretty much unexplained.
It came eight days after they started their tour of Australasia with a whopping 29-0 win against the Waratahs in Sydney.
Dyantyi flew out of OR Tambo International on Sunday night after playing in the SuperSport Challenge the day before, effectively filling the spot in the tour squad left vacant by the late withdrawal of captain Warren Whiteley.
The regular captain pulled out of the trip on the eve of the team’s departure two weeks ago after sustaining a repeat of the knee injury that kept him sidelined four to five weeks before that.
His place in the tour party wasn’t filled by coach Swys de Bruin, who was hopeful Whiteley would recover quickly to join the Lions overseas.
That has not happened, and while Whiteley is believed to be training regularly under the watchful eye of a biokineticist, it is uncertain whether he has fully recovered from the knee problem.
Whether he will still join his teammates in New Zealand is not known, and it seems scrumhalf Ross Cronjé’s mystery knee and rib problems will also continue to keep him from playing in the remaining tour matches.
Since Cronje’s last match in March, the Lions have recruited former Stormers and Northampton scrumhalf Nic Groom, who not only went on tour as the team’s second-choice No 9 behind Dillon Smit, but played off the bench in both matches so far.
He is expected to start against the Hurricanes.
The Lions have it all to do to get back on track after slumping to the Reds at the weekend, with the Hurricanes up this week and the Highlanders after that.
They have fallen off the top of the points table and have now lost four out of 10 games – against the lowly Reds, Blues and Jaguares and new points table leaders, the Crusaders.
De Bruin is set to name his team for Saturday’s match (9.35am) on Thursday, and expect a few changes to the side that went down in Brisbane last weekend.