From humble beginnings to the peak of the game, Makazole Mapimpi is now a strong contender to be regarded as the leading wing in world rugby, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
From the Border Bulldogs to the Kings to the Cheetahs and then the Sharks, Mapimpi has followed a winding road on his rugby journey, but never has he looked more at home than is currently the case.
During last year’s Vodacom Super Rugby season, Mapimpi shot the lights out. He emerged as one of the leading local wings in the game, but his exploits didn’t seem fully appreciated just yet.
For the first part of 2019, Aphiwe Dyantyi and Sbu Nkosi were still seen as the likely first-choice wings for the Boks, with the likes of Mapimipi viewed as the capable backup options.
But Mapimpi had other ideas. In many ways he redefined the cliche of going from ‘strength to strength’. Once suspect on defence and under the high ball, he eradicated those weaknesses of his game with meticulous effect.
When Dyantyi’s World Cup dream was dashed, Mapimpi stepped in on the left wing and produced a World Cup campaign that felt scripted in rugby heaven. If there was a Man of the Tournament award, Mapimpi would have been a strong contender.
The quietly spoken 29-year-old has taken his game to a level where he no longer fades into the background. As Springbok performance analyst Lindsay Weyer pointed out in a recent feature for SA Rugby magazine, he has a ‘presence about him now’.
‘His communication and organisational skills from the wing have changed immensely. He has grown into a complete package, where he is so reliable. The other players will always back him and say that they hear him and he’s always in their ear throughout the game. In our defence pattern, that’s vital. He can score tries. We all know he is a finisher.’
In many respects, Mapimpi’s evolution has had him grow immensely in confidence, allowing him to work off his wing, while his ability to read the game has him popping up in all the right places.
This was most aptly illustrated in the try he scored last weekend against the Highlanders. Take a look at where Mapimpi starts as the Highlanders launch a lineout.
From there he follows play, moving in-field. The Sharks then force a turnover and Sikhumbuzo Notshe breaks aways superbly.
Seeing the opportunity arising, Mapimipi speeds up from within his 22 to run the perfect support line, eventually receiving the ball from Madosh Tambwe to complete an 80m stunner of a try.
It’s this work rate and ability to sniff blood as a lethal all-round wing that has turned Mapimpi into one of the premier players in world rugby.
Quite simply, he has taken his game into the stratosphere.
Photo: Steve Haag Sports/Hollywoodbets