Makazole Mapimpi made an immediate impact in his first start since returning from Japan to steer the Sharks to a vital 33-21 victory over the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Talking points: The obvious narrative from this game will be Makazole Mapimpi’s performance and rightfully so. Making his first start since returning from his stint in Japan, Mapimpi played the full 80 minutes and finished with a try, 72 metres carried, eight gainline successes and a massive 12 defenders beaten.
It is a good sign for the Springboks ahead of the upcoming British & Irish Lions series, as the 2019 World Cup winner will undoubtedly be a key part of Jacques Nienaber’s plans.
Matchflow: Despite naming a much-changed starting lineup, largely bereft of their Springbok regulars, it was the Sharks who dominated most aspects of the game.
Sean Everitt’s team enjoyed the better of possession and territory and made their intent to run the ball felt from the very first minute.
This was keeping in mind that they needed a bonus-point win to keep their hopes of qualifying for the Rainbow Cup SA final alive.
However, it was the Lions who were first to score as, after their best period of pressure in the match, Andre Warner took a quick-tap penalty and burst through for the opening try.
From there, the game more or less belonged to the Sharks as they quickly levelled the scores through hooker Kerron van Vuuren’s first of two tries. The visitors continued to pile on the pressure, but were held up three times over the tryline.
Eventually, the pressure counted as Van Vuuren scored his second try, again from a driving maul, before an excellent linebreak from Mapimpi led to Phepsi Buthelezi scoring under the poles, putting the Sharks 19-7 ahead.
The Lions had the final say of the first half, as they won a turnover penalty on the stroke of half time and a subsequent lineout maul resulted in Ruben Schoeman driving over to narrow the deficit to just five points.
This pattern continued in the second half, as Mapimpi did excellently to finish off a long period of pressure, before PJ Botha scored for the Lions.
The decisive try came in the 70th minute from a genius bit of play from flyhalf substitute Boeta Chamberlain, who scanned the Lions defence and decided to chip the ball, before regathering his own kick and offloading to put Anthony Volmink over to score.
Bok watch: The Sharks named a starting lineup largely minus their Springbok contingent, aside from Thomas du Toit and Makazole Mapimpi.
It was Mapimpi who stole the show at Ellis Park, scoring an excellent try in the first half, while also playing a role in Buthelezi’s first-half try.
Ox Nche was named on the bench, but had to make an early appearance after Nthutuko Mchunu had to be helped from the field due to a leg injury.
Both Springboks were very active on attack and defence, carrying strongly and putting in some big hits.