By Colleta Dewa
Johannesburg - The 24-year-old Springbok winger Aphiwe Dyantyi made history when he became the first South African rugby player to win the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year Award during a ceremony held in Monaco on Sunday night.
The determined Eastern Cape-born Dyantyi scored six tries in his first 14 Test matches in 2018.
He beat Ireland wing Jordan Larmour and New Zealand prop Karl Tu'inukuafe to the award. Speaking after the prestigious achievement, Dyantyi said the acknowledgement was a huge encouragement for him to keep improving and giving his best in the sport and beyond.
“From here for me, I’ll just keep challenging myself to keep on improving and to keep on making a difference – not only for my country but in someone else’s life. If they can look at my story and see that as an inspiration to do something great out there, not only in sport but also in whatever field that they’re in. That for me is my ultimate goal. So yeah, truly honoured and really special to be standing here and truly appreciate this award,” said Dyantyi.
Dyantyi added that being part of the Springboks meant much more to him and promised to do his best for the country through the team.
“Being part of the Springboks, representing our country – it doesn’t get any better,” he added.
SA Rugby president Mark Alexander said Dyantyi has remained a consistent and hardworking player since he joined the senior team.
“Aphiwe has been sensational since making the step up to senior provincial rugby and after a superb debut season for the Emirates Lions in Vodacom Super Rugby, he was deservedly called up to the Springbok squad. Despite his limited experience at international level, Aphiwe never looked out of place in the Springbok jersey and he made an immediate impact, scoring a try on debut for the Boks against England in June,” he said.
He added that the speedy Dyantyi made a mark in the remarkable match when the Boks beat the All Blacks in New Zealand for the first time in nine years.
“It was his two tries in Wellington though, when the Boks beat the All Blacks in New Zealand for the first time in nine years, that will be remembered the best for his superb debut Test season. He finished as the joint top try-scorer in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, which is a wonderful achievement for a rookie Test player. We are all very proud of him and can’t wait to see more of the same in 2019,” added Alexander.
Other nominees from South African included Malcolm Marx and Faf de Klerk (Men’s Player of the Year), Rassie Erasmus (Coach of the Year), the Springboks (Team of the Year).
Ireland, however, dominated the event by scooping most of the influential awards including the main award of the evening, the World Rugby Player of the Year grabbed by Johnny Sexton as well as the Team of the Year and Coach of the Year taken by Irish Joe Schmidt.
Below is the full list of the 2018 World Rugby Awards winners:
• World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year - Johnny Sexton (Ireland)
• World Rugby Women’s 15s Player of the Year, in association with Mastercard - Jessy Trémoulière (France)
• World Rugby Team of the Year - Ireland
• World Rugby Coach of the Year - Joe Schmidt (Ireland)
• World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year - Aphiwe Dyantyi (South Africa)
• World Rugby Men’s Sevens Player of the Year - Perry Baker (USA)
• World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year - Michaela Blyde (New Zealand)
• World Rugby Referee Award - Angus Gardner (Australia)
• Vernon Pugh Award for Distinguished Service - Yoshiro Mori (Japan)
• Award for Character - Doddie Weir (Scotland)
• Spirit of Rugby Award - Jamie Armstrong, The Clan (Scotland)
• IRP Special Merit Award - Stephen Moore (Australia) and DJ Forbes (New Zealand)
• IRP Try of the Year - Brodie Retallick (New Zealand v Australia)