An exhausted Mapimpi spoke to the media on the Durban leg of the Boks’ trophy tour on Saturday, and said he was not surprised by the heartfelt greeting – but was touched.
“We are brothers,” he said. “We have been for a long time, so I was not surprised to have the guys put their arms around me – but it was nevertheless amazing. I had a tear in my eye.
“We play for each other... We will do anything for the team, and the injured guys who have contributed are never forgotten.”
Family environment goes back to 2018
Mapimpi said the closeness in the team had been fostered by the coaching staff since 2018.
“Rugby is a team sport – you will get nowhere as individuals. We play for each other, and if somebody drops out through injury, they won’t be forgotten.
“I will continue as long as I can do my job at the highest level. My cheekbone is nearly healed, and I can’t wait to play again for the Sharks.
“In one sense, it is dream that we do not want to wake up from, but then it is something we have been focused on for four years.
“We made it our goal to defend the cup and internally, we have been working very hard towards that goal,” Mapimpi continued.
“The public may not always know it, but we have been discussing it for a long time.
“The coaches have always let us know that the selections have been around making sure a big squad of players would be ready by the time we got to France. We knew about the plan.”
Ready for action again
The 33-year-old said that as the trophy tour draws to a close – there is an East London stop on Sunday – the sentiment in the squad had changed over the week.
“The guys are tired and yes, it will be nice to get some rest, but already the guys are thinking about the next game. We love playing rugby, and for me, I am ready to play for the Sharks and I can’t wait to get going again.”
Mapimpi said he had no plans of retiring from the Boks.
“They guys have been talking about over the week and everybody is very keen to continue,” he said, before adding with a smile, “Who would want to stop now?”
Mapimpi, who became the first South African to score a try in a World Cup final against England in Japan in 2019, said that his week in Paris before the 2023 title decider was not spent sightseeing.
“No chance,” he smiled. “The important thing about the Springboks is that the guys who are not playing are as important as the guys who are, if not more.
“My contribution was to tell the guys starting everything I knew about the All Blacks from my personal experience.
“I wanted the guys who were starting on the wings (Kurt-Lee Arendse and Cheslin Kolbe) to have every bit of knowledge possible about the guys they were up against.
“Nobody at the Boks has an easy ride – you are either playing, or making sure the guys that are starting are as best prepared as possible.”
* Mike Greenaway, Independent Media Senior Rugby Writer, is the author of The Fireside Springbok: Untold Stories That Make The Boks Great