Former University of Johannesburg star Aphiwe Dyantyi confirmed his rise in world rugby when he was named Breakthrough Player of the Year at the international body’s annual awards function last Sunday.
The 24-year-old wing shot to prominence this year with some stunning performances for the Springboks, making his debut for the national team and scoring six tries in 13 Tests.
The talented player, though, after making his mark with UJ in last year’s Varsity Cup, has not let success go to his head.
“I just want to keep on challenging myself to keep on improving and hopefully make a difference for our country,” he said after winning the award.
“But equally, I want to make an impact on someone else’s life, someone who will see my story as an inspiration to do something great out there. That is my ultimate goal.”
After starring in the age-group ranks during his schooldays at Dale College in King William’s Town, Dyantyi failed to make the grade in the open division and his interest in the game waned somewhat.
His focus turned to academics when he attended UJ in 2012, but thankfully he was spotted by the varsity coaches when helping out in a “koshuis”, or residence, league match.
Firm guidance from then UJ U19 coach Mac Masina and first team mentor Werner Janse van Rensburg saw Dyantyi’s interest in the game revived.
He has not forgotten those who helped him.
“I’ve been truly blessed in so many ways with the people around me who have helped me in the last few years – it’s really amazing,” he said.
“Representing our country – it doesn’t get any better. I’m very honoured as I never imagined I would ever be the one sitting here receiving an award such as this.”
Dyantyi said he saw some of the challenges during his career as something he needed to embrace.
“I see it as a journey for any young player and sport allows you the chance to express yourself.”
Last month, Dyantyi was honoured at the annual UJ sports awards gala function when he was named the varsity’s Club Sportsperson of the Year.