RETURN FROM THE SHADOWS
Signing Aphiwe Dyantyi after doping ban a ‘no-brainer’ according to Sharks CEO
The speedy winger will be eligible to play professional rugby again on 13 August 2023 after serving a four-year ban for testing positive for a trio of banned substances.
Aphiwe Dyantyi has officially signed with the Sharks following his four-year ban from rugby for after testing positive for three illegal substances: metandienone, methyltestosterone and LGD-4033.
“He was the best wing in the world before he got banned, so from a quality point of view, he’s a no-brainer,” Sharks CEO Eduard Coetzee told Daily Maverick.
“He has trained on his own and he has enlisted the help of a biokineticist and a sports scientist to help him. That just shows how professional he is.
“We’re very happy to facilitate his comeback into professional rugby and I’m 100% sure he will reach the same heights, if not higher than he has before he got banned.”
Previously, Dyantyi only played one full season of professional rugby, in 2018, in which he lit the scene up as a 23-year-old.
The speedy winger received the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year award in 2018 after scoring six tries in the 13 matches he played for the Springboks.
He was also part of the Lions team that made the Super Rugby final that year.
Dyantyi was well on track to take his place on the left wing for Rassie Erasmus’s World Cup team in 2019 but after picking up an injury while on Bok duty, the electric runner tested positive for the three aforementioned banned substances.
“If we take the view that we all make mistakes; and if my opportunities in life were defined by the mistakes I made in my past then I would definitely not be where I am today,” Coetzee said.
“He’s served his time. It’s wonderful that in the four years he remained professional, he kept himself training. Even though it was really tough he worked really hard to be in a position where you can now still be a professional rugby player and that’s a huge credit to the character of the man.”
Read more in Daily Maverick: Bok Aphiwe Dyantyi fails to prove claim of unwittingly ingesting banned substance
This is the second player the Sharks have signed in recent history who previously faced a banned-substance-related sanction from the game.
In 2021 the Sharks signed Gerbrandt Grobler. The burly lock-forward tested positive for drostanolone, an illegal substance, in 2014 and was subsequently banned for two years.
“We don’t look at players’ history or judge them for what they’ve done… they were found guilty, they’ve served their ban,” Coetzee added.
“We interview people before we employ them. It’s the same on the rugby side as it is on the admin side.
“If we feel those people are the right fit, and sometimes someone makes a mistake and if they change their ways or they acknowledge the mistakes they’ve done – it’s not my role to judge people further.
“For me, it’s just not right to punish people further, after that.
“It’s actually very easy if someone has got the talent and the skillset, they’ve shown remorse, they’ve served their time, it’s a no-brainer.”
Road to redemption
Dyantyi is only 28 years old and although he might have missed a large part of his developmental period on the field, there are still countless matches and tries left in his legs.
For inspiration for an illegal-substance-ban comeback, he needs to look no further than the man that led the Lions’ resurgence the year before he arrived at the Johannesburg union, in Johan Ackermann.
Ackermann was banned for two years in 1997 after the banned substance Nandrolone was detected in his body.
After his ban, Ackermann made his way back to the rugby field and even represented the Springboks, playing his final match as a 37-year-old — then becoming the oldest-ever Springbok — in 2007.
“He has definitely learned lessons this whole period and he comes to the Sharks with a clean slate,” Sharks captain Reniel Hugo said on Tuesday about Dyantyi.
“They say you never know what you have until it’s gone, he had rugby and was in the Springboks and unfortunately made a mistake, and paid the price.
“So, he will come here with lots of energy and big hunger. He will come here and inspire us to use every opportunity that comes our way.”
“We met him and he is really excited and looking forward to joining us. We will welcome him with open arms and let him do his job on the field for us.”
Dyantyi’s path back to the top isn’t straightforward, as a plethora of young superstars emerged for the Springboks in his absence. Just last year twin gems Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse were discovered and had exceptional debut seasons on the wings in the Green and Gold.
While 2019 World Cup-winning wingers Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe seem to still have their hands firmly on the starting jerseys.
For now, the big day is 13 August 2023 for Dyantyi — exactly four years on from the start of his ban — when he will officially be allowed to pull the black and white Sharks jersey over head for his first rugby match since 2019. DM