Former Springbok wing Odwa Ndungane believes World Cup-winner Makazole Mapimpi has the temperament and talent to continue excelling at the highest level, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
In a recent wide-ranging Zoom chat with SARugbymag.co.za, Ndungane reflected on the success of Mapimpi, who has progressed from playing in the Currie Cup First Division to becoming one of the most highly-regarded wings in the game.
After making his Bok debut against Wales at the age of 27 in June 2018, Mapimpi has gone on to score 14 tries in as many Tests – including the Springboks’ first-ever try in a World Cup final.
Ndungane, another Springbok who hails from the Eastern Cape, said it had been a joy to watch Mapimpi’s progression.
‘There’s one thing that is always going to be a factor when it comes to a winger, and that’s out-and-out pace, which is what Makazole has. Whenever he has an opportunity, he seems to finish that opportunity nine out of 10 times.
‘He’s such a well-rounded player now, when he was younger you could see he perhaps didn’t have the necessary foundational training, but with top-level coaching he’s developed his game to become a top international player. He’s always had the potential, but now he’s fulfilling that potential.’
Ndungane said it had been particularly impressive to see how Mapimpi had risen to such heights at an ‘older’ age than most.
‘I remember when I first played against him, he was a solid guy. There may have been a time when some doubted his ability and said he wasn’t strong enough in his tackles or aerial game. And maybe there was a time when he struggled with his confidence as he came through to the top level … But now that he’s settled, and believes in himself, you’re seeing his full potential and I think there’s still a lot more to come.’
As part of the Ndungane Twins foundation started by Odwa and his twin brother Akona, they seek to identify and support other talented youngsters from the Eastern Cape region.
Ndungane added that it was especially inspirational for kids to have witnessed the achievement of the likes of Mapimpi, Lukhanyo Am and Siya Kolisi, who all come from the Eastern Cape.
‘I’m so proud when I see those guys; Siya led the guys all the way [at the World Cup]. Hearing those stories fill you with joy, because of where he comes from and how far he’s gone. Makazole’s story is another inspirational story for the youngsters back in the Eastern Cape, for example. There they can see and relate to those guys, and know they can also achieve their dreams and goals.
‘All of these youngsters just need opportunities and exposure. It’s really inspiring to have three guys from the Eastern Cape go and become World Cup winners. They are also so humble and remain grounded despite their success. I’ve spoken with them a few times, and they still want to give back, which is really important for the youngsters to be able to see them up close.’