Dayimani has ‘proven his worth’ to be a Bok

Published Feb 21, 2024

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Ashfak Mohamed

If you haven’t been included in the group of 43 players for a Springbok alignment camp – mainly South African-based – then your chances of playing for the world champions this year are slim.

But there are a number of players omitted who can genuinely wonder what more they need to do to get the attention of Bok coach Rassie Erasmus.

Yes, Erasmus has previously explained that an alignment camp is not a Bok squad, per se, and it doesn’t mean that these are the 43 players who will face Ireland in July’s two-Test series.

But whether the Bok management likes it or not, those selected will have greater expectations of making the final squad than those left out.

Erasmus announced the 43 players on Monday for the opening camp in Cape Town from March 4. He mentioned that the group was made up of those who had been part of the national set-up previously, and others who had been in good form.

There are several well-deserved new faces such as Stormers tighthead prop Neethling Fouché, Bulls No 8 Cameron Hanekom, Lions centre Henco van Wyk and fullback Quan Horn, as well as classy young Stormers duo Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu and Suleiman Hartzenberg.

But what about those players who have been consistent performers over the last few seasons?

The first name that springs to mind is Stormers loose forward Hacjivah Dayimani. He was the driving force behind the Capetonians’ memorable charge to the 2022 United Rugby Championship title and played an equally important part in their run to last year’s final.

And this season, after an initial absence following the birth of his child, the 26-year-old has again sparkled for John Dobson’s team with his heady mix of pace, side-stepping, offloads in the tackle, dynamic running lines and superb cover defence.

Initially a No 8 at the Lions, Dayimani showed his versatility by establishing himself at blindside flank when he moved to the Stormers, dovetailing superbly with Evan Roos and Deon Fourie in an impregnable loose trio.

With Roos sidelined with a broken jaw over the last few months, Dayimani shifted to No 8 and kept up the intensity, making mention of a willingness to be more physical due to a perception that he would rather roam in the wide channels than get stuck in closer to the rucks.

“For the past two seasons, based on how the Stormers play – especially having Evan Roos in the middle – I was always in the wide channels, and it’s something Dawie (Snyman, attack coach), myself and a few of the coaches have felt like that is where I need to improve more,” Dayimani said last month.

“I made a decision this year that this is the year, because there is a perception obviously about me that I’m this guy who is constantly in the wide channels, where it’s nice, and do the offloads and fancy passing. But when it comes to the hard yards, I shy away.

“So, I just felt like I took it to myself and made that statement, especially to myself that listen, especially in the big games, that’s where I actually want to rock up and show I’m visible.”

And he has certainly made that statement, so it is difficult to understand why he wasn’t invited to the Bok alignment camp. Adding Dayimani would have been beneficial.

It is a missed opportunity as it would have been a chance for Dayimani to be exposed to the Bok environment, while also allowing Erasmus to not only get to know the Stormers star better, but to explain any shortcomings that he may need to address to become a Test player.

Bulls hooker Akker van der Merwe and scrumhalf Embrose Papier are two others who can count themselves unlucky not to be invited to the alignment camp.

Van der Merwe has been arguably the best South African hooker in the URC this season, and surely warrants selection ahead of his young Bulls teammate Jan-Hendrik Wessels and Cheetahs No 2 Marnus van der Merwe, while another Bull, Johan Grobbelaar, only recently returned from a hamstring injury.

Papier has been excellent for Jake White’s team in the URC and Champions Cup, and the big improvement in his make-up over the last two seasons has been his kicking game, in addition to his trademark speed and quick service from the base of the ruck.

Hopefully those left out will get an opportunity at the two other camps later in the year.

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