Super Rugby

Gelant's Stormers arrival softens blow of losing 'hard to replace' Leyds

Warrick Gelant (Getty Images)
Warrick Gelant (Getty Images)

Dillyn Leyds, off to French club La Rochelle, was "more than just an offload and a top-knot" for the Stormers.

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That was the rather comical but heartfelt message from coach John Dobson on Monday as he spoke about the impact Leyds had at the franchise both on and off the field over the last six years. 

Now 27 and capped 10 times by the Springboks, Leyds is taking the next step in his career and the significance of his departure has been there to see in the emotional farewells that have done the rounds in recent days. 

A highly skilful fullback with a natural x-factor, Leyds was flexible enough to operate at wing and even at flyhalf. 

Dobson acknowledged that what Leyds would be "difficult to replace", both on and off the field, but the blow of the loss has been softened somewhat by the arrival of Bulls fullback Warrick Gelant

Still just 25 and capped nine times himself at international level, 2019 World Cup winner Gelant has spent his entire professional career so far at the Bulls. 

His return to the Cape is a homecoming of sorts given that he was born in Knysna and schooled in George, and Gelant will look to settle quickly at the union and remind Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber of his Springbok No 15 credentials. 

With Leyds gone and Jean-Luc du Plessis' move to Japan ensuring that Damian Willemse will move back to flyhalf when rugby does return, Gelant will start his career at the Stormers and Western Province as the undisputed first-choice fullback at the union. 

"We had a chat to Warrick a couple of years ago and it didn't come off," Dobson revealed. 

"Once we lost Jean-Luc I started thinking about who could play flyhalf for us and I can't think of anyone better than what Damian Willemse is going to become.

"There's been a lot of emotion around the debate on Damian Willemse, but I think if you look at his games analytically, you've got a kid who is absolutely fearless on defence with a great pass and an amazing break. It's up to us to coach the game management stuff.

"Once we realised that Jean-Luc was gone and Damian had to play 10, even though he is our best fullback, we needed someone.

"Warrick gets contribution from SA Rugby as one of the Poni (Players of national interest) and the price differential wasn't that great.

"He's been at the Bulls a long time and had a great career there and was obviously just looking for a move."

Dobson added that the negotiations with Gelant happened surprisingly quickly and that the pedigree of the player went a long way towards filling the void left by Leyds. 

"It happened in two or three days ... it was completely serendipitous. He is from this region and he felt like a change in scenery," said the coach. 

"What Dillyn Leyds brought to this team is very hard to replace, especially off the field, but also in that he was a really good communicator and a really good professional.

"With our wings being out and out strikers, they need a guy at the back there telling them what to do and Warrick is known as being really good on detail, a good professional and a really hard trainer.

"Dillyn wasn't all about the offload and the top-knot ... there was a bit more to him and I think that's what Warrick will bring." 

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