DURBAN – Robert du Preez has proclaimed Makazole Mapimpi the best wing in South Africa, and on his Super Rugby form this season few will disagree with the Sharks coach.
Heading into tomorrow’s big clash with the Hurricanes at Jonsson Kings Park, the 28-year-old Mapimpi is now comfortably back to the blistering form he was in for the Kings and then the Cheetahs in 2017.
That year he was picked for the PRO14 dream team at the conclusion of that tournament. He scored an incredible 10 tries for the Cheetahs in just 13 matches. There was also seven tries for the Cheetahs in the Currie Cup to go with 11 tries in 14 games for the Kings in what was his break-though season. That amounted to 28 tries in a calendar year, a staggering tally, especially given that he was playing for unsuccessful teams.
After playing week in week out for virtually the whole of 2017 he was, unsurprisingly, a fatigued player when he joined the Sharks for Super Rugby last year, and struggled to keep his place in the team.
But Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus nonetheless picked him for his greater Bok squad at the end of Super Rugby and there was a window of opportunity for Mapimpi because his provincial teammate Sbu Nkosi had been out with a broken bone in his foot.
Mapimpi ended up playing four Tests last year, scoring an impressive four tries, prompting Erasmus to say this of him: “He is such a hard worker. He’s always fit and he’s always available to do extra training, and ready for the call of duty.
If there were certain aspects of his game that were a three or a four out of 10, they’re now closer to eight or nine. Add that to his X-factor with ball in hand and I had no hesitation in giving him a fantastic opportunity against the big boys.”
Sharks coach Du Preez fully concurs with Erasmus. “He is just fantastic,” Du Preez enthused.
“A lot of credit should be given to (attack coach) Dave Williams for how Mapimpi has come along. David worked with him at the Kings and knew how good he can be. His high-ball management has improved tremendously, his defence has been outstanding, and his work rate is just top. He is loved by all his teammates and I am so pleased for him. He is certainly the best wing in the country at this stage.”
Mapimpi is like a jack-in-the-box in the way he pops up all over the field, often out of position, but Du Preez says he has full licence to roam.
The Sharks team is:
15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Louis Schreuder (capt), 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Mzamo Majola
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden/Cullen Collopy, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Tyler Paul, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Robert du Preez, 23 Kobus van Wyk
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