Cape Town - In an exclusive interview, Lions loose forward HACJIVAH DAYIMANI talks about the prospect of becoming a Springbok, boxing with Quade Cooper and facing the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday.
Sport24 asked: How would you asses your start to the season?
Hacjivah Dayimani: Beating the Jaguares for the first time in Argentina was a big victory for us and a great way to start the season. This time we knew what to expect and we actually prepared very well. We analysed them player for player and it worked for us because we were playing for each other. The Jaguares were way bigger than us and we started with a very light pack. We had a lot to prove and we manned up. At the Lions, we play to glorify god and inspire a nation. That is our main focus and we don’t actually mention winning in any of our team meetings. Instead, we always talk about scoring tries and playing for what is bigger than us. The moment you start playing for what is bigger than you and put yourself second, the results automatically take care of themselves because you are not playing for yourself, but for others. On a personal front, I feel as though I’m far from the player I can become. I’m still finding my feet and trying to understand the game better at No.7. It’s a different role for me than when playing at No.8. I’m playing as a loose forward, but I have been given more freedom by the coaches to be out-wide, play with the backs and link with the forwards.
Sport24 asked: Do you have dreams of becoming a Springbok?
Hacjivah Dayimani: It’s a tough one for me to be honest because I’m half South African and half Nigerian. There have been talks of me playing for the Nigerian Sevens side, but I have also wanted to play for the Springboks as I was born in South Africa. (Dayimani’s mother is a Xhosa woman and his late father was an Igbo Jew from Nigeria). I just want to play for the Lions and whatever happens, happens. I feel like I need to keep my head down and continue improving as a rugby player because I believe I still have a lot to learn. There is a long road ahead for me and a lot of things I can still achieve, especially at the Lions. I don’t really look back at my journey because I feel like everyone has a backstory and it’s not where you come from but where you are headed that matters most. I have heard that (Lions assistant coach) Joey Mongalo has said I have more than enough talent and it’s now whether I can pass the character test. That is where I am sitting at the moment. I have ticked all the boxes at training and it’s a matter of when I can break through and handle the pressure during match play. It takes a man to realise his weaknesses and, if I can work on them, I reckon I can become a world-class player. You get people that will praise you but, at the end of the day, the reality will hit you if you become complacent. As a person, I feel you need to be honest with yourself and I’m blessed to have guardians and a small inner-circle to remind me who I am. I’m scared of going back to Cape Town and living a life surrounded by gangsterism. I’m trying to stay on my toes and create a great future for me and my family. I can’t get comfortable and must keep working hard.
Sport24 asked: What do you make of national captain Siya Kolisi?
Hacjivah Dayimani: Siya is a guy I look up to because he has come a long way. He and I have similar stories coming from nothing and becoming rugby players. I had really hoped that he would win the Laureus Sporting Moment of the Year award because he has brought South Africa together in many ways. Siya has changed the sport especially in terms of transformation. He has shown that it is possible and that the Springboks can have a black captain. His success story is good for South African sports. In South African rugby, we are very blessed with plenty of black talent. There are so many players of colour coming up the ranks with wonderful talent and Damian Willemse is one such example. I believe we just have to give it time and transformation will come naturally in South Africa.
Sport24 asked: Where does your interest in boxing come from?
Hacjivah Dayimani: My late father, Frank, was a boxer and he wanted me to become a boxer rather than a rugby player. I did boxing to please him, but I was never happy in the ring. Today, I would never fight professionally, but I still use the boxing training because it helps me to punch above my body weight. It allows me to have strong shoulders and get up and down quicker than the rest of the players. In our free time, Elton Jantjies and I do boxing as a hobby and are white-collar boxers. Maybe later on in my career, I could challenge Quade Cooper to a boxing match to raise some funds for charity. It would be a nice initiative. I would want to take Cooper on, but not Sonny Bill Williams. I have seen Quade fight once and I personally think that Sonny Bill is a much better boxer than him. In terms of the proposed heavyweight fight between Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder, which boxing fans are intent on seeing, I think it’s going to happen at some stage. I believe it’s just a case of Wilder accepting that Joshua is the guy with the upper-hand and that the fight needs to take place in the UK. If that happens and both fighters agree in terms of the overall purse, I think it will come to pass. I’m backing Joshua all the way because, even though he fights for Great Britain, he’s Nigerian.
Sport24 asked: Your thoughts ahead of the clash at Newlands?
Hacjivah Dayimani: I feel like the Stormers are going to come out guns blazing, especially after the loss they suffered against the Bulls in the first round. Their 37-point defeat was a shock to everyone because no one expected it, but we want to face the Stormers at their best. It just shows that anything can happen in Super Rugby. We won’t be taking the Cape-based side lightly and we know that they can really bounce back and will try to prove a point. In Super Rugby, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish… There are obviously personal battles at play, which are intensified in a World Cup year. Coming up against a loose trio of Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Kolisi is a very interesting challenge. However, we are going to play our game because if we start worrying about them then we aren’t going to impose our authority. I have played a couple of times at Newlands and it’s tough. It’s very hard playing the Stormers there because the crowd always backs them. We are trying to build continuity from last week and work on our game. We won’t change anything because of the Stormers, but are looking to fix what we did wrong and take it from there.
Sport24 asked: Who are your dream dinner guests and why?
Hacjivah Dayimani: First and foremost I would invite my mom, Lushabowang, because she saved my life. She has been unemployed most of her life and somehow always made it possible for me. She always made a plan and is someone I definitely look up to. I have to give it up to her as Superwoman. I would also extend an invitation to Bryan Habana. He is one of my heroes and part of the reason I’m playing rugby today. It would mean a lot to meet him. In the past I never understood the point of rugby, but I loved the fact that every time Habana caught the ball, other players couldn’t catch him. I was super-quick in soccer and for some reason it felt like we were the same player albeit in different sporting codes. His success showed me that it doesn’t matter where you come from or what you do, if you’re quick, you’re quick and no one can stop you. The debate as to who is the quickest player at the Lions is ongoing. It would have to be a shoot-out between myself and Courtnall Skosan. That is the race over 100m that everyone is waiting for. One of these days, I’m going to challenge him to take to the track and settle it once and for all. My celebrity crush, Thuli Phongolo, would also be a welcome addition. I have been following her acting career for years now and she’s been my crush for a while. I just need to have the guts to tell her how I feel. For dinner, I would prepare Jollof - a spicy West African rice dish - and pair it with either beef or turkey. In terms of music, I would make my guests listen to Sam Smith. I’m a fan and will definitely be going to his Johannesburg concert in April.