Breaking boundaries with Hacjivah Dayimani, the rugby star he desperately needs

Hacjivah Dayimani at Stormers training.  Source: Alamy

Hacjivah Dayimani at Stormers training. Source: Alamy

Hacjivah Dayimani describes herself as an outcast, someone who never had a place within social norms. Instead of falling victim to the constraints of the world as we know it, the star chose to forge her own path – one that led to fame.

The chances of a young boy born in the Cape Town town of Joe Slovo of becoming a professional rugby player are nanoscopic, and the chances of playing for the Stormers’ first winning team are even slimmer.

Planet Rugby’s Dylan Coetzee caught up with Stormers superstar Dayimani to find out what makes one of rugby’s most intriguing characters work this way.

Early years

The Dayimani we see on and off the pitch, full of joy, smiles and love for life, is a bit different than his younger self.

The Stormers team recalls times of change and uncertainty as they grew up, moving from house to house from the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape, to a trip to Johannesburg full of unknowns.

It is a heavy burden for a young person trying to cope with the rigors of life in South Africa.

To overcome obstacles, Dayimani became a “child soldier” who erased his emotions to find ways to deal with the problems he faced. The situation often overwhelmed him, where the well-being of the family was in the first place.

“I think I had to be like a child soldier and hide my emotions, hide how I feel and just fight,” Dayimani told Planet Rugby.

“I think growing up when I was a kid I remember when there were problems at home or anything that couldn’t be said listen to ‘I’m struggling with ABC at school’ because there are bigger problems at home you know there’s no food we’re fighting to pay the rent and there were always bigger problems.”

In his youth, Dayimani worked to contribute in any way to support his family as the focus was always on the collective.

“I’ve always worked. I was a servant to my family and I worked for my family. So at a young age, I worked in construction, selling oranges and naartjies, and I never saw anything wrong with it because it was for the family,” said Dayimani.

Jump of faith

The star’s positive and uplifting outlook took place when it was time as a young boy to move from his grandmother in Cradock in the Eastern Cape to Johannesburg. He saw it as a chance to take the next step rather than being bullied by the biggest city in the country.

“When I left my grandmother’s place and went to Joburg, I think another child would have said, ‘No, I don’t want to leave,’ and would have been content to stay comfortable and stay with what he knows at that age. I think I was looking at a positive picture of this.

“I was thinking, what if I get a job and my dad is a multi-millionaire? And then my life turns around.

“When I went to Joburg, I never had a backup plan. I was just on my way to look for my dad,” explained the loose striker.

The move paid off as Dayimani won a scholarship to Jeppe High School and eventually a spot in the Lions setup.

He played well and attracted attention with his extreme pace for a striker, but it wasn’t until he returned to Cape Town to play for the Stormers that he found a place where he could be himself and really break the mold on and off the pitch.

On the pitch, you’d think he should be a center or maybe even a winger with his speed. Dayimani quickly gained attention and became an integral player in the Stormers’ United Rugby Championship (URC) win.

Changing perception

Off the pitch, the 25-year-old took on his self-proclaimed title of outcast and forged his own path. From painting nails to posting photos in skirts on social media, Dayimani is here to change perceptions and make a real difference to the rugby space.

“I always felt like, you know what? Why do I have to conform to standards or how should something be done? You know, I’m actually going to show people what my life is like and I’m going to be different. I’m not a one person rugby player. I’m actually someone else,” Stormer exclaimed passionately.

Dayimani has been red-hot on the pitch scoring sensational tries and setting up many more and is looking to use his rising stature in the game to make rugby a more progressive space.

“Nobody cares if my nails are painted. No one cares that I have blonde hair and no one cares what I wear off the pitch. Everyone loves me because I score goals. And that’s what I’m trying to show people that you hate a person for how they look, but deep down you know that’s not how you feel about that person,” he said.

The star credited Stormers coach John Dobson for understanding the modern player, which was huge in his development on and off the pitch.

“One of the things I can praise John Dobson for is that he knows how to treat Gen Z because he knows there is another way to coach these new generations. The way you want to train 20 years ago and the way you train now are two different things,” continued Dayimani.

“I feel that with him he has created a culture where it doesn’t matter what you do off the pitch. You know, it doesn’t matter how you behave when you go out at night or whatever, as long as you have respect for the people around you and as long as you give it your all on the pitch, that’s all that matters.

“Stormers have an inclusive culture where we have different people from different places. Players are welcome from the moment you walk in and everyone feels like there are no older or younger players. Everyone’s on the same level because at the end of the day when someone breaks the line, we’re not going to say, “Oh, you’ve got 60 caps.” You have to chase him. No, no, no, the one with the two caps, if he’s the closest, what he needs to do the tackle,” he explained.

Player driven Stormers

By giving players the opportunity to respect their jersey and teammates, the Stormers have created a player-centric environment – a key aspect of their historic URC triumph.

“I just feel like there’s something brewing at the Stormers at the moment. It is driven by players. Such is the case with the Stormers. It’s very player oriented because at the end of the day we’re on the field, the players are on the field, you know, the coaches are there to guide us and give us a good plan and good ideas of how we can infiltrate the teams but the players come up with ideas and say “Look, based on what the coach said, I feel like we could implement it,” and we have a discussion and that’s how we move forward. Dayimani said with a smile.

Following the URC triumph, the star lit up on social media as he headed out for an epic celebration in his full kit spanning several days. However, Dayimani says it was more than just a party for him.

“It’s quite emotional in the sense that I’m coming out of a place where I don’t know the stats, but it’s not easy for people to come out and just make something out of it. When I go visiting, I look at people and even they don’t believe I’m from there. It’s so rare for people to understand that,” he said.

“I went everywhere I could think of, where I had bad memories, and celebrated as hard as possible.”

Change the world

When asked about his aspirations on and off the pitch, Dayimani deeply replied, “I want to change the world.”

“I feel like I have a message to get across to people without offending them. I feel like when people talk about race it’s always offensive to one side, when people talk about toxic masculinity it’s offensive to one side. I want to show people that you can do certain things, be a certain person and be part of this group. I feel like obviously through the sport, I do it, but I wanted to do it off the pitch, through the way you dress, the way you act, the things you do and just push the boundaries,” he said.

Dayimani is profound, inspiring and pioneering. His life philosophy is very powerful and has brought him great success. As he looks at the Springbok shirt in his future, the rugby world is just beginning to see a star who lives hard and plays even harder.

Remember the name of Hacivah Dayimani.

READ MORE: Champions Cup: Stormers boss John Dobson is frustrated with his first-half performance against Clermont

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