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Springboks out to ‘fulfil Mandela’s dream’

The image of Nelson Mandela in Springbok colours presenting the Webb Ellis Cup to South Africa captain Francois Pienaar is one of the most iconic in sport

LONDON, United Kingdom, Oct 5 – In-form South Africa wing Aphiwe Dyantyi has said the country’s players and fans are focused on fulfilling the dream of the late Nelson Mandela by uniting ahead of facing the All Blacks on Saturday.

Ahead of hosting the world’s No 1 ranked side in the final round of the Rugby Championship at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, live on Sky Sports, the Springboks have launched a #StandTogetherSA movement.

Before the anthems at each Test, the players link arms and move in closer. On Saturday, they want the whole stadium to do likewise.

Dyantyi, who has been one of the form players in the Rugby Championship this year with five tries from five Tests, says it will be like fulfilling the dream of Mandela – former President of South Africa and anti-apartheid revolutionary.

“That takes us back to the dream of Mandela – the great Nelson Mandela,” Dyantyi told Sky Sports’ Miles Harrison on Thursday.

“His dream was just to see the country being united and if us playing on the field can do that for the country, that will truly be amazing and an honour for me to be a part of.

“And can I just say from my side, I’m just really happy for the opportunity and really enjoying myself on the field.

“I think it’s more satisfying for me to see how as a team we’ve grown from June until now and the reception from the country.

“How we’ve been playing has brought the country together.”

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After a fairly inauspicious start which saw Rassie Erasmus’ charges follow an opening weekend victory over Argentina with losses to the Pumas in Mendoza and Wallabies in Brisbane, everything changed for the Boks in Round Four.

Dyantyi only made his Test debut in June against England at the age of 23

Heading to New Zealand as massive underdogs, South Africa put in a sensational performance to claim an unlikely 36-34 victory in Wellington, with 24-year-old Dyantyi one of the stars of the day, notching two superb tries.

On Saturday, he and his team-mates have a chance to beat New Zealand twice in the same year for the first time since 2009.

“I was speechless really,” Dyantyi said when asked of his memories from Wellington.

“It was really amazing and if there was one time the team came together, that was the game. And from there, we really set a bar for ourselves that we really need to maintain and keep on pushing.

“Playing at home, in front of a home crowd, at Pretoria – where the people love their rugby – it doesn’t get much better than that.

“It’s a great opportunity for us but we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves and think about records.

“We as a team have goals and objectives that we want to achieve and we have a process in place. And if we stick to that and keep on building obviously until next year’s World Cup, keeping our heads and feet firmly on the ground, we’ll be okay.”

For Dyantyi, who only made his Test debut in June against England, scoring in victory in Johannesburg, it could all have been very different though.

Having played rugby growing up, Dyantyi missed out on provincial selection at high school level, nor did he play for his school Dale College Boys’ High School’s first XV, having been deemed too small.

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Enrolling at the University of Johannesburg to study a degree in marketing, Dyantyi had all but given up on rugby and mainly played football.

It was the intervention of other individuals which ultimately resurrected his fading career with the oval ball.

“Yes I did [put rugby on hold for studies]”, he says. “Not willingly but due to circumstances. I guess things happen in life you can’t control. You can only control what you can.

“I’m just grateful that now I’m back playing rugby and really enjoying what I’m doing.

“A lot of people got me back. First of all the support of my family was truly amazing, and I can mention a lot of other individuals.

“Mac Masina, who played Super 12s for the Cats, he was pivotal at the time and was coaching at the university when I was playing U19s.

“He’s one guy who for me personally I hold dearly and close to my heart for helping me get to where I am today.

“Also the first-team coach, Coach Werner [Janse van Rensburg]. He helped me a lot in terms of not only being a player who plays rugby but one who is coachable.

“There’s a lot of people who have been so important and instrumental in helping me get to where I am. On the field, off the field. A lot of people from the university really helped me.

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“I’m truly grateful to them and truly grateful again for the opportunity that I have here.”

Growing up, who were the Boks which provided Dyantyi with inspiration when he would watch titanic struggles between the All Blacks and Springboks?

“On the field, a whole host of them,” he adds. “Jean de Villiers, Brent Russell, Bryan Habana, Percy Montgomery. A lot of guys.

“How they conducted themselves on the field, you could see the passion and pride with which they played the sport.

“For me, that served as great motivation and inspiration and that’s what I try and do as well – to try and be an inspiration to another kid somewhere who is dreaming.”

If Dyantyi and co can pull off another victory over New Zealand on Saturday, he may well inspire a whole new group of future Boks.

-By Sky Sports- 

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