Hacjivah more than a raw diamond

Hacjivah Dayimani is a young, black, South African Jew currently making his way in the game and while his journey is just beginning, he is thinking big.


Dayimani’s story is a magnificent one. His late, Nigerian father was a devoted Jew, while his South African mother practices as a Sangoma — a respected traditional healer in Southern Africa. His first name is a combination of the Hebrew word “Akiva” (to protect) and the Xhosa word “Mpumulelo” (achiever).

His parents couldn’t choose between the two and so decided on Hacjivah because it included “Akiva” and also sounded like “achiever”. His surname means “diamond” in Zulu. This is just the beginning. 

Dayimani was born in Cape Town, then moved to the Eastern Cape before finally settling down in Johannesburg where he attended Jeppe High School, a South African rugby powerhouse that has produced the likes of James Dalton (1995 Rugby World Cup winning hooker) and Jake White (2007 Rugby World Cup winning coach). 

It was there that this raw talent raised on basketball, athletics and boxing began channelling his gifts towards a career in rugby. Jeppe initially offered Dayimani a 50 per cent scholarship however his father was reluctant to pay, the remaining fees as he was against his son playing matches on the Sabbath. 

In the light of this, the school agreed to cover the full cost of his education. “My dad told me that I can’t play rugby games on Saturdays because of my religion, but as time passed I asked myself why would God give me talent if he did not want me to use it,” Dayimani said of the clash between his faith and his passion. 

“So I played the sport I love and every day before my games I pray that God guides me as he wishes.

“Having a close relationship with God has had a positive impact on my career.”

Initially an unenthusiastic second-rower with blistering speed and alarming strength, but little appreciation of the subtlety it takes to be an extraordinary rugby player, Dayimani has developed into a swashbuckling eighthman. 

In the closing chapters of his time at Jeppe he deservedly represented the South African Schools team before going on to win gold for the South African Sevens at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa. 

In the same way that his upbringing is unique, his playing style is equally so. Standing at 6ft 2in and weighing 15 stone, he couples brutal physicality in defence with a marauding ball-in-hand running-game that some backline players could only ever dream of. 

At just 19, he is still learning the finer arts of stealing the ball on the floor, but if opposition carriers isolate themselves, Dayimani is more than capable of forcing turn-overs. 

So distinct is his modus operandi that comparing him to a particular player in world rugby is a tough task, but he most definitely possesses the X factor that so many of New Zealand’s current crop display. 

His explosiveness off the mark and power often surprises defenders — a valid explanation as to why he scores so many tries — and he has that prized ability to turn a game on its head in a matter of seconds.

If there is one aspect of his game that he feels needs improving, it is his decision making in the heat of the battle. 

Dayimani currently plies his trade with the Lions in Gauteng and formed an important part of his team’s 2017 Rugby Challenge campaign that ended with a 31-23 defeat in the semi-finals to the Griquas. 

Under contract with the Johannesburg team, Dayimani was denied permission to represent South Africa at the Maccabiah Games this year after coach Kevin Musikanth initially selected him as part of a squad that eventually won gold in the sevens and silver in the full 15-a-side competition. 

While disappointed, Musikanth understood the reasoning behind the decision and is of the opinion Dayimani has what it takes to succeed at the highest level.

“Hacjivah was certainly a part of my plans for the Maccabiah and his exclusion was of course a blow, but the Lions employ him and had every right to keep him at home and that’s a call I respect,” the decorated South African coach said. 

“The Jewish community in South Africa is expecting big things from this youngster. 

“He’s one of those guys who can make something from nothing and his work ethic is seriously impressive. He can go far in the game if the right people steer him in the right direction.

“His pedigree as a rugby player aside, he is a fantastic young man and is someone who has been and will continue to be a great ambassador for our country and the Jewish faith. 

“He’s as special a person as he is a rugby player.”

Dayimani would have loved to travel to Israel to compete at the Maccabiah but accepts it was impossible. 

He is extremely grateful for the learning environment he is able to train in at the Lions and believes he is in a very privileged position. 

“For now I’m taking it one step at a time,” Dayimani said when asked if he wanted to become a Springbok. 

“It will take a lot of hard work and I’m a long way from achieving that goal but I believe in dreaming big and setting the bar high. 

“At the moment, I’m focused on trying to establish myself as a consistent performer for the Lions, a team I’m extremely proud to be associated with. 

“I’m taking in as much information from guys like Warren Whitely and Jaco Kriel as possible to try and make myself the complete footballer.”

There have only been a handful of Jewish Springboks over the years and in the Rainbow Nation there has long been a legend that all successful Springbok teams need a Jewish player and a policeman. 

It’s unclear where they are going to find the latter, but in Dayimani they may well have found the former.

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