In early May, Swys de Bruin almost reluctantly revealed why Hacjivah Dayimani was lurking in spots on the bench usually reserved for backs.
The Lions’ Super Rugby mentor, in consultation with Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus, had decided on a gradual process to develop him into a centre.
From an attacking perspective, such a switch made much sense, particularly given the 22-year-old’s reputation as one of the most explosive runners on the local circuit.
What you didn’t hear much of is that there were also reservations over his ability physically impose himself as a No 8 when the going go tough.
Five weeks into this year’s shortened Currie Cup campaign, one’s starting to wonder why there was such talk at all.
A fortnight ago, Dayimani trekked down to Cape Town with his team on a daunting assignment to face Western Province.
He relished it, dominating his tackles and collisions and thoroughly outplaying his direct opponent and Springbok, Sikhumbuzo Notshe.
In just 180 minutes of game-time to date, Dayimani has left his mark once again on the hallowed domestic tournament – just, this time, he’s done so by getting his hands dirty.
“Hacjivah is really at a good juncture in his career, especially in terms of responsibility and growth,” Cash van Rooyen, the Lions’ Currie Cup coach, said on Thursday.
“He’s invested a lot of time in his physical preparation. He reviews his video footage religiously. I’ve always maintained his an exception athlete, a real specimen. But he’s so grounded. Weekly, he’s having constructive, in-depth discussions with the coaching staff. We’re really excited where he’s headed.”
Dayimani is indeed rapidly becoming a far more rounded player.
He’s stolen the most lineouts in the tournament to date, he’s in the top five for turnovers won and he’s only missed a single tackle out of 18, two of them being dominant hits.
“Jeepers, he’s really putting in the work,” said Lions skipper Ross Cronje, who invariably is fed possession by his energetic eighthman.
“He’s definitely become a more versatile, complete player. He’s changed his mindset and really grown. It’s been amazing to see.”
Yet more adventurous Lions fans need not worry about Dayimani suddenly neglecting his attacking roots.
159 running metres gained from just 20 carries attests to his willingness to terrorise defences.
It was his delightful, sharp pass to Madosh Tambwe last weekend that set the Lions’ on the comeback trail against the Cheetahs.
“I just want to pass him the ball and see what magic he can come up with! He’s one of the fastest players in SA rugby. When I play him into position, I have absolutely no idea what he’s going to do. Hacjivah will be stepping this way, I’ll probably step the other! I just try to catch up.”