Doc Craven was a firm believer that a combination of factors played a part in the making and development of a rugby player from a very early age, to reaching full potential.
One of these factors was the genetic gifts of strength, skill and natural talent from one generation of an exceptional player to the next; or in the case of Dylan Sage from his illustrious grandfather Doug Hopwood to his grandson Dylan Sage.
Most informed students of rugby who saw all the Springbok and overseas players from the post WW2 era to the inevitable advent of professionalism in rugby union changing the game forever, have little doubt as to the identity of the two or three truly great players who donned Springbok jerseys during that period. Anybody who refutes that Doug Hopwood was a rugby player who had more skills, courage and flair than almost all who played alongside and against him, was absent in an asylum for the demented and damaged.
Dylan Sage is a proud and vital member of the current ‘Blitzbokke’ Sevens Squad. His passage from neophyte rugby player has been a steady progression rather than an overnight sensation. From Wynberg Boys High School, the Alma Mater of his grandfather, and a school which has made a habit of producing exceptional sportsmen, Dylan progressed through the ranks of UCTRFC, to a spell in Perth under the tutelage of an
PARIS, FRANCE – MAY 15: Dylan Sage of South Africa during the Plate semi final match between New Zealand and South Africa on day 3 of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens France at Stade Jean Bouin on May 15, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Roger Sedres/Gallo Images)
outstanding South African coaching team, back to the Ikey Tigers, and then graduating to the Blitzbokke.
The famed Springbok Sevens squad is riddled with exceptional exponents of the skills and fitness required of rugby players who are good enough to be a part of the current Sevens World Champions. Dylan Sage has grown under the expert coaching of Neil Powell from a sevens player good enough to make the Blitzbokke squad, to a star player of the highest order. This is a tribute to his determination, application and inherent natural talent.
Here, we talk to Dylan about his transition into 7-man rugby, his greatest rugby moments and his memories from his time as an Ikey:
Q: After playing 15’s for many years did you initially find it difficult to adjust to playing sevens
A: Sevens was really tough to adjust to, luckily I had some experienced men around me who showed me the ropes.
Q: How did your stint at the Western Force help you cope with being a professional rugby player
A: I think it more just gave me perspective as to what was expected from me in a professional environment so I was quite prepared mentally to head into another professional setup.
Q: What is your earliest rugby memory?
A: Probably playing barefoot rugby at Wynberg Boys Junior for the U9 team.
Q: Do you see yourself making the shift back to 15-man rugby in the future?
A: You never know what the future holds so I can’t really give an answer to that one at this point.
Q: What would you say is your biggest strength on the pitch?
A: I think I’m quite dynamic, I believe I’m quite well rounded as a player in general and I’ve got the ability to play in numerous positions.
Q: What is the highlight of your Sevens career so far?
A: Winning the World Series
Q: If you didn’t play rugby what sport would you play?
Q: There is obviously no substitute for pace when it comes to Sevens but the Blitzbokke’s defence played a huge role in winning this year’s tournaments. What does it take to be a complete sevens player?
A: I think it’s being able to do a multitude of different things in both attack and defense. From being quick to being able to make your one on one hits you are going to be tested on all of them at some point.
Q: Despite losing key players to injury and to the 15-man game, the side still came out tops. What makes this team such a special one?
A: I think its credit to being able to hold down a strong squad and make sure everyone is able to compete at that high level. Squad strength is key to a consistent season.
Q: The 2013 season proved to be a tough campaign for the Ikey Tigers. Yet, UCT rugby is about a lot more than just the results. What are your fondest memories of Ikeys rugby? What does the Club mean to you?
A: The club will always have a special place in my heart – it’s where I spent most of my rugby career out of school. I think it’s just a club where people from all over the world can come and enjoy the game and express themselves as people and as rugby players.
I’ve had so many amazing memories at the club so it’s hard to choose just one but I absolutely loved playing for UCT from playing Babrows (U20B) all the way through to Varsity Cup for the Ikeys.
Q: What is it like playing with a Fellow Ikey, but now wearing the national colours? Do you still talk about your time at UCT?
A: Kyle was a bit ahead of myself at UCT so we are in different eras. I would say but we will always have that connection being from the same club. There will always be a memory or two shared once in a while.
I am absolutely convinced that Doc Craven got it right when he said that rugby talent flowed from generation to generation, occasionally taking its time to lodge firmly in a recipient. I am sure that Doug Hopwood would sit in the stand today watching his grandson and nod in that inimitable way of his, and intone, ‘Ja, he’s OK, but there are a few things I need to sort out.’ The great man gave praise as one gives blood. No great rush or gush, but slowly and of the purest quality. Dylan, you can rest assured that you are worthy of that muted but precious praise.
We as Ikeys claim you as one of us, but recognize that hanging around Doug Hopwood as a little boy did you a power of good. May you go on to even greater feats on and off the rugby field.