Rassie Erasmus expects Makazole Mapimpi to make the most of his starting opportunity against Argentina at Kings Park on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports from Durban.
Mapimpi will start on the right wing this Saturday in place of the injured S’bu Nkosi. While Erasmus has retained Aphiwe Dyantyi on the left wing and Willie le Roux at No 15, Damian Willemse may come off the bench to win his first cap at fullback later in the contest.
There’s been a lot of talk about the 20-year-old making his debut for the Boks. Erasmus has added fuel to the fire by suggesting that Willemse is in the mould of Frans Steyn and Dan Carter, and that he will travel to the 2019 World Cup as a utility option.
On Thursday, however, Erasmus went out of his way to talk up the player starting at No 14. In the Bok coach’s opinion, Mapimpi has improved significantly over the past few months – particularly in the departments of defence and aerial contesting – and will have a key role to play against Argentina this week.
‘If I had to rank the whole team in terms of who has improved the most, Makazole would be right up there at No 1,’ said Erasmus. ‘We know what he can offer on attack, but I’ve been impressed by how hard he has worked in other areas of his game.
‘We are a bit unsure about what to expect from this Argentina side,’ the Bok coach added. ‘They will probably play like the Jaguares did in Super Rugby, and the stats show how much that team ran the ball. However, it is Test rugby and they may kick a bit more this weekend.’
It will be interesting to see how Erasmus manages his back three over the course of the match. Willemse has been included as the official cover at 10 and 15. The Stormers star will slot in at fullback later in the game, though, if there are no problems at flyhalf.
‘I am looking at Damian as an option at 15 ahead of the World Cup next year,’ said Erasmus. ‘Again, it will depend on the game situation in terms of when I bring him on this Saturday.
‘He’s a physical player who I feel is ready for Test rugby. We saw him playing 15 for Western Province last year in the Currie Cup.
‘He has a big boot and a great step, and all we have to see now is whether he can deal with the pressure and expectation associated with playing Test rugby.’
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