Makazole Mapimpi in action against Japan at the 2019 RWC. Photo: BackpagePix
Makazole Mapimpi in action against Japan at the 2019 RWC. Photo: BackpagePix

Chasing The Sun: Mapimpi’s wrist band message inspired by a very personal experience

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Oct 12, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - When Makazole Mapimpi scored the first of a hat trick of tries in a World Cup warm-up game against Japan, he revealed a message on his left wrist strapping that read: NENE R.I.P.

It was in remembrance of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a student who had been raped and murdered in a Post Office branch in Claremont, Cape Town on August 24 last year.

It resulted in societal outrage, with protests and marches to Parliament to raise awareness of gender-based violence and femicide.

In faraway Japan, the Springboks were preparing for the Rugby World Cup, and were about to play a warm-up game against the host nation in Kumagaya on September 6.

This situation was highlighted in Sunday night’s second episode of Chasing The Sun – the five-part documentary about the Boks’ journey to their third World Cup title – on M-Net.

Coach Rassie Erasmus had spoken on the programme about how he insisted that the team’s motto of “Let the main thing be the main thing” be adhered to, as he felt that the Boks first had to deserve the honour of inspiring the nation, being role models and unifying the country by winning the World Cup.

But following the death of Mrwetyana, Bok physiotherapist Rene Naylor said on Chasing The Sun that the week of the Japan warm-up match had been “probably the hardest part of the World Cup for me”, and that she had wanted the team to say something about the matter.

The team didn’t, with captain Siya Kolisi adding that he wished he had. So, up stepped Mapimpi with his wrist band. He scored three tries himself on the day, but the message was inspired by personal experience.

“I know pain and poverty, and seeing people being abused because I grew up in a family that experienced it. I remember a day when my sister was slapped because an elderly man wanted to have sex with her, but my sister fought him off,” Mapimpi said.

“So, that was the motivation – all of those experiences. It was my chance to do it. I was doing it because of the hurt I was feeling.

“When I wrote her name on my wrist strapping, I did not know if I was going to score a try or not, but the one that had has to happen is I have to show it. I wasn’t doing it for anyone. It came from my heart, because I know the feeling of what it is like to lose someone you love.”

Erasmus stated: “I probably should’ve said ‘Guys, let’s talk out about it’. But I felt if we lose this game and we are talking about it, then what then? It was just a bunch of players that said something,” he said with tears in his eyes.

“It wasn’t the World Cup-winning Boks that said something. But it did change there, when Makazole did what he did there. The team started talking: ‘S**t, South Africa needs positive stuff, needs hope’. It did change there – Makazole changed that.

“And that was probably something I could’ve managed better, but I felt it came naturally.”

Springbok RWC scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies about to hop on the Springbok bus for the parade through the streets of Johannesburg following the RWC in Japan. Photo: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

The other inspirational story to come out of the second episode of Chasing The Sun was scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies’ rise from the mountainous small town of Kylemore, near Stellenbosch in the Western Cape, to Test rugby.

His mother Adeline cried when speaking about her son making his Bok debut against the Wallabies in Johannesburg last year, where he scored two tries in a convincing victory that laid the foundation for the Rugby Championship title.

“I don’t know how to describe it – it was sort of like the first time I got a PlayStation! It was probably the same thing… and I never even got the opportunity to even have a PlayStation when I was younger. I had to become a Springbok to get a PlayStation,” Herschel Jantjies said.

But the big one in that tournament was the ‘revenge clash’ against the All Blacks in Wellington, where South Africa had beaten New Zealand 36-34 in 2018.

Erasmus sent nearly a full team over to the Kiwi capital city even before the Australia Test took place at Ellis Park, and the gamble paid off as the Boks drew 16-16, with Jantjies scoring in the closing moments and Handre Pollard slotting the angled conversion.

Erasmus said he was a bit embarrassed by the team celebrating a draw, but “they understood the bigger picture” and could win the World Cup, because they never give up.

They completed the Rugby Championship triumph by trouncing Argentina in Salta.

@AshfakMohamed

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