JOHANNESBURG – After eight rounds of Super Rugby action a year ago Aphiwe Dyantyi was the talk of the town. He’d written his name up in lights and was the newest star to emerge in South African rugby.
A year on and Dyantyi is fighting to keep up with fellow wingers like Makazole Mapimpi, Dillyn Leyds, Sergeal Petersen and even Lions teammate Courtnall Skosan.
After a difficult start to the 2019 Super Rugby season the next three weeks present Dyantyi with the perfect opportunity to regain his form and show he is still the boss man when it comes to wing play in South Africa.
Having been given a go at outside centre against the Sharks last weekend - in a performance where the Lions got clobbered and the backs hardly got a chance to play - Dyantyi is back on the left wing for the team’s opening tour match of their three-week trip to Australasia against the Brumbies in Canberra tomorrow.
And the man who played inside him in the No 12 jersey against the Sharks, Lionel Mapoe, is also back in familiar territory, having been restored to outside centre, in what will be his 100th Super Rugby outing for the Lions.
After a difficult first half of the competition, Dyantyi will be keen to find the form on tour that saw him become one of the biggest and brightest stars last year. By round eight a year ago the now 24-year-old had scored a number of sensational tries and helped his team to a commanding position in the SA Conference, and he was being talked about as a Bok for the future (which he went on to become, and also starred on the Test stage), but he has struggled to replicate that form up to now.
Dyantyi has started only three matches, one of which was at centre, and also played twice off the bench. He sat out with a niggle in rounds four and five, too. So far he has failed to cross the whitewash and his biggest contribution came in round six, against the Sunwolves in Singapore, when he came off the bench in the 60th minute and in one move made 27 metres, beat a defender and offloaded in a try-assist for Mapoe to score a wonderful try.
In a new-look and evolving Lions team it must be noted that the backs haven’t had nearly as many opportunity to show off their skills as has been the case in the recent past. Overall, the Lions have struggled this season, and that’s impacted the outside backs’ performance, too.
The @emirates Lions going through their paces ahead of the weekend's Vodacom Super Rugby clash against the Brumbies at the Royal Military College training fields.#LionsPride #LionsOnTour #BRUvLIO pic.twitter.com/TUreCgmW7v— Emirates Lions (@LionsRugbyCo) April 11, 2019
Back in the No 11 jersey this week for the first time since round three, coach Swys de Bruin will hope Dyantyi finds his form and makes the kind of impact on tour that made him a Bok last year.
In the other key changes to the Lions side that lost to the Sharks last Friday, young Franco Naude has been trusted with the No 12 jersey, Nic Groom is at scrumhalf and up front, Hacjivah Dayimani joins Stephan Lewies and Cyle Brink in a new-look loose-trio. In the front row, Johannes Jonker and Nathan McBeth are the new props.
Kick-off tomorrow is 11.40am.@jacq_west