JOHANNESBURG - Experienced Lions centre Lionel Mapoe is ready to step up for the Springboks should national coach Rassie Erasmus look his way.
The 30-year-old, who can also play on the wing, scored two tries from off the Bok bench two weeks ago in a losing cause in Mendoza against Argentina but was then left out of the squad that flew to Australasia last week. Mapoe has since shone in the Currie Cup and said he was enjoying his time playing alongside a bunch of exciting youngsters.
“I’ve got nothing to prove,” he said about the starring role he has played in an unbeaten Lions team in the Currie Cup so far. “I decided I could take it (being left out of the Bok squad) as a negative or a positive, and I decided to look at it in a positive way.
"I’m enjoying playing in the Currie Cup, for a team that has as its goal to win the competition. All my focus is here right now. But if the call comes (from Erasmus), when they press on my button, I’ll be ready. I know if I perform well (in the Currie Cup) I will be rewarded.”
Mapoe added that years of being included and then left out of the Bok squad prepared him for his latest disappointment. “It happens, it is rugby. I’ve been in this game for a while now, so I’m experienced at handling that type of disappointment. It makes things easier that I’m still playing some rugby.”
Mapoe is playing in the Currie Cup for the first time in three years after ending his association with Japanese club Kubota Spears. “Things have gone well so far; I’m like the old cat among the young guys,” he quipped.
“But the vibe is amazing here. It’s also nice that I’ve got more time to read the game, to play (in the Currie Cup), as opposed to Test rugby. And it’s always good playing alongside Howard (Mnisi). I trust him so much, you have to trust the guy on your inside... and he’s a real ball-player which is nice. We understand each other well so it’s all good.”
The Lions have three wins out of three so far, but face their biggest test against Western Province at Ellis Park this weekend. Mapoe agreed a big match lays ahead for the Lions. “It’s going to be much tougher than last weekend (against the Free State Cheetahs). We’re going to have to man-up... they’re physical up front so we’re going to have to match them. Also, we’re going to have to try get some good go-forward ball and that means our set-pieces will be crucial.”
Meanwhile, as expected, the Lions have lost exciting wing prospect Madosh Tambwe for the rest of the season after the 20-year-old cried off with an ankle injury during last weekend’s game against the Cheetahs. Tambwe has a dislocated ankle and will be out until next year.
The good news is that prop Johannes Jonker is back and available for selection this week after recovering from a “stinger” to his upper arm. Coach Ivan van Rooyen will name his team for the WP match tomorrow.