Baby Bok a step closer to his rugby dream

Saturday Star - - NEWS -

‘NOW I’M go­ing to give it ev­ery­thing to be a part of that squad,” said 20-year-old Golden Lions loose for­ward Hacji­vah Day­i­mani this week af­ter hear­ing the news that South Africa is the pre­ferred can­di­date to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup (RWC).

Day­i­mani is just one of thou­sands of young rugby play­ers in the coun­try who prob­a­bly said and thought the same thing. They’ll all want to be part of the Bok squad should South Africa win the right to host the RWC.

If ev­ery­thing goes to plan, South Africa will or­gan­ise and host the rugby show­piece in six years’ time, 28 years af­ter Fran­cois Pien­aar’s squad beat the All Blacks at El­lis Park in the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

The world govern­ing body will an­nounce the suc­cess­ful bid­der on Novem­ber 15, but this week’s en­dorse­ment of South Africa means some­thing quite dras­tic will have to hap­pen for Ire­land or France to snatch the rights to host the RWC.

Day­i­mani, who has rep­re­sented the Lions at all lev­els in ju­nior rugby and played for SA Schools in 2015, said play­ing for the Boks in six years’ time in the RWC, on home soil, would make his rugby dream come true.

“I’m very ex­cited about this an­nounce­ment. It’s one of the big­gest things in my life… work­ing to­wards achiev­ing my goal of play­ing for the Boks. I’m go­ing to do ev­ery­thing I can to get into the Bok squad in the com­ing years,” he said.

“All the young­sters around my age now have some­thing to work to­wards. Also, there’s a rea­son to stay in South Africa, to play rugby here. It would be stupid for any­one to now think of go­ing over­seas.”

In­ter­est­ingly, Day­i­mani’s story of how he got hooked on rugby is sim­i­lar to leg­endary Bok wing Bryan Ha­bana’s – and it’s all got to do with the RWC tour­na­ment.

Ha­bana, the Boks’ lead­ing all-time try-scorer, fell in love with the game af­ter watch­ing Pien­aar’s team go through the 1995 tour­na­ment un­beaten.

He was a foot­ball fol­lower but “some­thing started to boil in­side me”, Ha­bana told ESPN a few years ago when he watched the fi­nal at El­lis Park with his dad as a 12-year-old.

“It was awe­some. I looked at my dad af­ter­wards and said, ‘ Dad, I want to play this game’.” And he did. Many years later Day­i­mani saw Ha­bana scor­ing tries at the 2007 World Cup in France and de­cided he too wanted to get in the scrum.

“I wasn’t born yet when the Boks won in 1995 and the only player from that team that I know is James Dal­ton be­cause he went to my school (Jeppe). But I’ve heard it was a spe­cial time in this coun­try.

“I got in­spired when I watched the 2007 World Cup as a 10-year-old in Cape Town.

“I re­mem­ber watch­ing Bryan Ha­bana and his div­ing over the try­line to score all those won­der­ful tries. I’d go to my room and dive on the bed and think I was him. I wanted to be a wing, too. I was hooked.”

Day­i­mani gave up soccer to play rugby.

He, how­ever, wasn’t able to ful­fil his dream of be­ing a “Ha­bana” as his tall frame meant coaches em­ployed him at lock in his youth. In Grade 9, he found a home at flank, a po­si­tion in which he ex­celled, but he still has a dream of be­ing a wing.

“There’s been talk about mov­ing on to the wing. I don’t know in what po­si­tion I’m go­ing to end up, but I do know where I’ll be in six years, and I can’t wait to start this jour­ney to that World Cup.”

Among the 2023 Rugby World Cup hope­fuls are, from left, Ri­aan van Rens­burg, Mashao Mukhari, Christo­pher Klop­per and Hacji­vah Day­i­mani.

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