It’s a sign of how far Stormers wing Dillyn Leyds has come as a player that when we spoke he was upset after missing the team’s brief Argentinean tour because of an injured knee.
Five years ago, the thought of playing Super Rugby was as far from his mind as Buenos Aires is from Cape Town. But in a few brief seasons Leyds has blossomed into a key player in the Stormers’ set up with an uncanny knack of coming up with an important play in a big match.
But his injury gave him time to reflect on his career and the role that the FNB Varsity Cup, presented by Steinhoff, played in his formative stage.
“I didn’t play when the Ikeys won in 2011 but made my debut in 2012 and played in 2013, both years when we didn’t win,” Leyds says. “Then Ikeys won again in 2014 when I didn’t play. Maybe I was bad luck for them or something.
Leyds attended Bishops, matriculating in 2010. He received a Junior Western Province contract in 2011 and was at the WP Rugby Institute but even so, he wasn’t sure what his next step would be.
“My goal was to make the WP under-21 team at the time but before that happened UCT coach Kevin Foote came and spoke to me about the possibility of playing for Ikeys in the Varsity Cup,” Leyds says.
“Considering the close bond between UCT and Bishops I thought it would be a good idea for both my rugby and for me as a person.
“It was a chance to reconnect with my mates from Bishops but also a chance to play good rugby. Kevin said that a lot of the successful 2011 team were leaving so there were opportunities. That swayed my final decision.”
And what a good decision it was. During the season Leyds became known as a swashbuckling fullback in the competition, scoring seven tries in seven matches.
His performances caught the attention of Junior Springbok coach Dawie Theron. The coach called Leyds and asked him to attend some sessions at the Under-20s training camps in Stellenbosch.
Leyds was so impressive that he made the final squad and was one of the stars of the team, which also featured Handré Pollard, Jan Serfontein and Pieter-Steph du Toit, that won the world championships on home soil that June.
“The quality of the Varsity Cup in the years I played was very good,” Leyds says. “I played against guys such as Clayton Blommetjies (current Cheetahs fullback), Courtnall Skosan (Lions wing), Rudy Paige (Springbok scrumhalf) and Oupa Mohoje (Springbok flank).
“There are a lot of guys that have gone through the tournament and have gone on to good things.
“Take a guy like current Cheetahs flyhalf Niel Marais, who is playing Super Rugby because of his performances in Varsity Cup. It gives a lot of players a second chance at their careers.
“There are also other guys, who decided to play koshuis rugby for fun, but ended up in the Varsity Cup and are now professional sportsmen. My good friend Marcel Brache is an example of that. He now plays for the Western Force but his initial goal wasn’t to be a pro player.
“The Varsity Cup gave him that opportunity.”
By Craig Ray