Cape Town — Hacjivah Dayimani quickly became a cult hero to Stormers fans last season, and now the classy loose forward wants to continue to “be himself” after signing a contract extension with the champions of the United Rugby Championship.
The Cape franchise announced on Wednesday that Dayimani, who left the Lions in 2021 to return to the city of his birth, will stay at the Stormers until 2025.
The 25-year-old, who is equally comfortable at No 8 and blindside flank, formed a sensational loose trio with Deon Fourie and Evan Roos, which played a major part in the triumphant URC campaign.
Dayimani’s footwork and speed across the ground is such that he sometimes covers wing and centre as well, but it was as a No 7 blindside flank that he made the most impact last season.
He has continued his good form in the URC and Champions Cup in recent months, especially with Roos out with a rib injury.
But the pair were reunited in the second half of last week’s 30-16 victory over Clermont Auvergne at Cape Town Stadium, and are set to line up together once more in Friday URC clash against Ulster in Belfast (9.35pm SA time kickoff).
What made Dayimani really popular in Cape Town was his post-URC final celebration, where he partied with Stormers fans across the city in his playing kit for about a week.
Now he will hope to bring the Champions Cup trophy back to the Mother City as well, with the Stormers facing English club Harlequins in the round of 16 playoff on the weekend of March 31-April 2.
And who knows — perhaps a Springbok cap is on the horizon.
“The team environment here is incredible. Everyone involved is able to be themselves and express themselves, which is really important to me,” Dayimani said in a statement on Wednesday.
“There is still so much that we can achieve together, and I really want to be part of that, so I couldn’t be happier to extend my contract.”
Stormers coach John Dobson praised Dayimani for his contribution to the team’s success.
“Hacjivah is a special player who brings something completely unique to our team, so we couldn’t be happier to have him extend his contract with us,” Dobson said.
“He keeps everyone on their toes on and off the field, and is a crowd favourite at Cape Town Stadium, so we expect that to grow even further in the seasons ahead.”
Meanwhile, another player who will have something to celebrate this week is prop Ali Vermaak, who is set to earn his 50th Stormers cap against Ulster.
The 33-year-old front-ranker recalled his debut in 2014 against the Bulls.
“I made my debut against the Bulls in Pretoria, and I was on the bench with (centre) Michael van der Spuy — we were roommates and were joking around as there were big names playing that day. We were both on the bench and quite nervous, as he couldn’t sleep as he was busy doing push-ups!” Vermaak said from Belfast.
“I told him ‘you must be ready, as you could go on in the first 15 or 20 minutes’. I think it was Brokkie (Harris) or someone who got injured — he got a clean-out from Bakkies (Botha) or someone — and there was a blood (replacement) and I had to go on in the first 20, and straight into a scrum.
“So, that’s how I made my debut, and it’s been an amazing journey ever since. I’ve had my fair share of injuries over the years, but I have been privileged to recover from it and get the opportunity to play rugby again.”
Vermaak will have added responsibility in the scrums this week, with Boks Steven Kitshoff, Joseph Dweba and Frans Malherbe rested.
“There are guys like Brok, and Scarra (Ntubeni) is back now, so there are lots of experienced guys in the team. The scrum is not about the individual, but all eight, and we have a brilliant back five who can bring the power,” Vermaak said.
“I’ve watched (Ulster), and they are quite physical in the breakdown and set-piece. We expect a nice battle against them, and like the other European teams, they are experienced upfront and always bring the physicality.”