Makazole Mapimpi says he is grateful for the honest advice and input of good friend and teammate Lukhanyo Am, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
At both international and domestic levels, Mapimpi and Am have become two of the most highly-regarded players in world rugby.
On the field, the World Cup-winning duo have a clear understanding, most famously highlighted by the sensational interplay that ultimately led to Mapimpi’s historic try in the World Cup final last year.
Off the field, Mapimpi and Am are also close friends and roommates, with the two world-class backs having journeyed from the Eastern Cape – which included stints with the Border Bulldogs and Kings – to now setting the scene alight with the Springboks and Sharks.
In an exclusive interview for the upcoming SA Rugby magazine, Mapimpi said he holds Am in the highest regard.
‘Lukhanyo is a very good friend, you know it’s been a long journey between the two of us. He’s someone I trust and we’re very honest with each other. If we make a mistake, or do something wrong, we aren’t afraid to tell each other. But it’s done in a good way.
‘It’s important to have that sort of relationship, and it keeps us honest. I’ve been very grateful to play with him, and it’s also people like him who I think are an inspiration for other youngsters back in the Eastern Cape.’
It’s abundantly clear that both Mapimpi and Am bring out the best in each other, while the pair have both recently agreed to contract extensions with the Sharks.
Mapimpi said he was looking forward to an upcoming stint in Japan, before returning to the Durban-based side in the lead-up to the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour.
‘It was quite frustrating for the season to be suspended earlier this year when we were playing some really good rugby. There are some new coaches and players at the Sharks, and we were playing with a lot of enjoyment and freedom. But this time away from the game has also allowed us an opportunity to think about subjects a little differently, and to focus on things that we perhaps wouldn’t have had as much time for in the past.
‘One area of my game that I really had to spend a lot of time working on was my abilities under the high ball. This is something I’ve spent a lot of time on, and will continue to work hard on to keep getting better at. At this stage of my career, I don’t want to slow down.
‘I only experienced playing Super Rugby quite late in my career, so I want to make sure I perform at my best for as long as possible. We’ve had a long break of action now, and then I’m going to spend some time in Japan. I really just want to make sure that I put myself in the best position to keep playing well for the Boks and Sharks.’
*The full interview with Mapimpi will appear in the next issue of SA Rugby magazine – Subscribe here