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Rugby | Vodacom Super Rugby

Aphiwe Dyantyi © Gallo Images

Dyantyi's midfield move a calculated opportunity

It may have raised eyebrows for Emirates Lions fans ahead of their Vodacom Super Rugby derby against the Cell C Sharks on Friday, but Springbok flyer Aphiwe Dyantyi’s selection in the midfield is a calculated risk for coach Swys de Bruin.

For one the Lions have a bit of depth at the moment on the wing and Dyantyi has been used sparingly by De Bruin this season, which may not be a bad thing in terms of his Springbok aspirations.

Plus, given the challenge that awaits the Springboks in Japan, to have the Bok winger be able to fill in at 13 in an international match may not be the worst decision out there. Versatility is a great bow to have in any rugby player’s arsenal and it won’t be surprising to find that the idea originated in conversations between De Bruin and national coach Rassie Erasmus.

There are several reasons why Dyantyi will find it good to play at 13, not the least because of the challenges when it comes to marshalling defence. The one criticism of his play in his breakthrough year was at times being out of position on defence and the Lions have chosen to empower, rather than to protect, to give him a chance to prove himself.

His brief cameo against the Sunwolves delivered a beautiful, breathtaking try and Dyantyi will be keen to impress in the position as well.

For De Bruin, there are no reasons why he can’t succeed against a top class Sharks and Springbok midfield that he will face this weekend. Both Andre Esterhuizen and Lukhanyo Am are very much in form at the moment and will certainly provide the kind of test that the Bok management will be hoping for.

“I think when you saw he came on against the Sunwolves he was right on song. He played 10 in his career as a schoolboy, then he played 13, and a bit of 15. Played wing, became a Springbok winger. He is a footballer wherever you play him,” De Bruin explained.

“I think Lionel (Mapoe) will tell you that. If Lionel plays wing, 12 or 13. They all know the detail and they should slot in. When you have players in your team that slot in and adapt, it makes things a lot easier.

“Later we will play him at wing again but there are certain concepts at 13 that are good for him and his development, he is a young player. We never know if his future is at wing or 13. At least we gave him a fair chance there.”

Mapoe plays his 99th game in Super Rugby on Friday, with his century likely to come up on tour down under. But the veteran Springbok has no qualms about partnering his teammate in the midfield and feels Dyantyi’s natural exuberance and talent will come to the fore for the attacking game plan that the Lions hope to employ against the Sharks.

“I just love to play rugby, give me the ball and I will run. It will be interesting, exciting. AP came on against the Sunwolves at 13 and he is a natural footballer and you love to play with natural footballers. I think we only have one specialist in our backline – Elton, but he can also slot in at 12. It’s good to play rugby again, to play good rugby again. I’m looking forward to it.”

Facing a Bok midfield duo makes it even more relishing for Mapoe to get the partnership to work.

“It is an opportunity more than a risk. We love opportunities and it will be a challenge. We are looking forward to it and we love challenges. AP is a natural footballer and we have a lot of footballers in our backline and it is easy for us to adapt to one another. So far this week training has been good. I believe we have had a good few days and I am confident going into this weekend.”

Whatever happens, the Bok and Lion managements will know what Dyantyi is capable of and whether his raw talent can be adapted to outside centre as well.

It’s a fascinating gamble – or opportunity as Mapoe puts it – and it may turn out to be a good move for the Boks in the long term as well.


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