A successful transition from wing to inside centre resulted in such a stellar season for University of Johannesburg rugby star Aphiwe Dyantyi that he earned selection for the Varsity Cup Dream Team this week.
After an injury last year derailed his contract with the Lions franchise, Dyantyi placed his focus on the Varsity Cup this year, forcing his way into the Dream Team with several notable performances.
Looking back on the competition, the 22-year-old is satisfied that the move to midfield paid dividends.
“For many, this change was a bit of a shock but I’d been in discussion with the coaches and we’d been preparing for the role,” he said. “I was comfortable trying out for centre and it was a decision that has really yielded good results for everyone.”
In October last year Dyantyi signed with the Lions but injury a month later meant he had few opportunities to prove himself.
“My motivation this Varsity Cup season was to play the best I could for UJ, but I also wanted to create other opportunities for myself outside of that.”
Ahead of the semifinals Dyantyi had beaten more defenders (26) than any other player during the season and also made the most off-loads (19), ball carries (74) and line breaks (10) in the competition.
“The tournament has been a perfect platform for me to show the coaches at the Lions what I’m capable of,” said the BComm marketing student.
The season got off to a bad start for FNB UJ as they lost their first two matches but an 18-17 win over FNB Tuks proved to be the turning point for the team.
“My standout occasion of the season was the game against Tuks,” said Dyantyi. “We were coming back from two losses to play a team that had been unbeaten and it was during this game that we really managed to turn our season around.”
The team put together a five-match winning streak which came to an end when they lost 65-19 to FNB Maties. However, they still qualified for the semis, where they were again beaten by FNB Maties.
“Undoubtedly our success as a team contributed to my selection so I really can’t take all the credit,” said Dyantyi, who acknowledged the contributions of his teammates and coaches.
The 23-man Dream Team squad was announced after the Varsity Cup final between FNB Tuks and FNB Maties on Monday.
A late substitution due to injury means FNB UJ now has four names on the team sheet for the game against the Junior Springboks in Stellenbosch on Tuesday.
Dyantyi and Dillon Bakos (who will replace Neethling Fouche from FNB Tuks) were named as part of the starting line-up while Jannes Snyman and Nico du Plessis were included as replacements.
The four will be joined by FNB UJ strength and conditioning coach Jacques Durand, who was selected as sports scientist for the Dream Team. He has been with the team since the inception of the competition.
By Coetzee Gouws