Mapimpi: We wanted to unite South Africa

Makazole Mapimpi says he will never forget the message of playing for a greater cause that Rassie Erasmus regularly reminded the Springboks of during last year’s World Cup, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

In the buildup to the 2019 World Cup, former Springbok captain Morne du Plessis – who also managed the national team in their historic 1995 campaign – offered an insightful perspective in a special interview with SA Rugby magazine.

In describing some of the key ingredients for success at such a tournament, he mentioned an underlying factor such as emotion and the need to find a ‘magic moment’ to inspire the team.

Of course, in 1995, the Boks were deeply moved by the inspiration of late great former President Nelson Mandela, who so wholeheartedly supported the side just after the country’s historic first democratic elections.

The views of Du Plessis proved to be rather prophetic, with the Springbok class of 2019 having acknowledged that they were driven throughout last year’s World Cup by a desire to uplift South Africans and provide an escape from daily troubles.

It became abundantly apparent that this generation of players were socially aware of their influence and responsibilities when, during a World Cup warm-up match, Mapimpi took the time after scoring a sequence of tries to reveal a wrist strapping that read ‘Nene RIP’.

It was a meaningful gesture in dedication to Uyinene Mrwetyana, who was brutally raped and murdered in Cape Town last year. The tragedy sparked an emotional movement calling for change in the way women and children are treated in this country.

In the weeks to follow, the Springboks continued to champion the catchphrase ‘Stronger Together’ throughout the World Cup, striving to play for the people back in South Africa and to unite a country in distress.

It was an incredibly successful campaign – and although so much has changed since the Springboks’ special World Cup-winning night in Yokohama on 2 November – Mapimpi told SA Rugby magazine this week that the words ‘stronger together’ remained as relevant as ever.

‘When we were at the Springboks, Rassie spoke to us about the fact that we represented the whole of South Africa – a country that was completely different to any other. Back home we knew there were a lot of hardships, and when we got to Japan and heard about Uyinene, we realised what a responsibility we had – that there was more at stake than just playing rugby.

‘This is something that we were reminded of throughout the World Cup, we wanted to bring the country together and everything we did was to try to inspire everyone back home. When I think of anything we achieved as a team, there was always the bigger picture in mind.

‘We saw the reward of that when we got home and there were so many people waiting for us at Joburg airport. It’s this unity that I hope we can maintain as a country.’

*The full interview with Mapimpi will appear in the next issue of SA Rugby magazine – Subscribe here

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Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

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Craig Lewis