DURBAN – This time last year Makazole Mapimpi was struggling to get a gig at the Sharks but now he is the talk of the town, so what has changed?
Fatigue in 2018 and a lack of it in 2019 was Mapimpi’s answer when he spoke to the media yesterday following his brilliant performance against the Lions at the weekend, which in fact was a continuation of the form he has been in all season for the Sharks.
“2017 was as very big year for me, with a lot of rugby for the Kings and the Cheetahs, so I feel I came into 2018 tired and that maybe was why my form was not as it should have been,” Mapimpi said.
He has a point. He played a ridiculous amount of rugby in 2017, his breakthrough year after Kings coach Deon Davids had yanked him out of Border rugby and set him on his way. And what a year it was.
Pundits following the PRO14 nominated Mapimpi for the Dream Team for his exploits for the Cheetahs in the competition. He scored an incredible 10 tries in just 13 matches. There was also seven tries for the Cheetahs in the Currie Cup to go with 11 tries in 14 games for the Kings.
That amounted to 28 tries in a calendar year, a staggering tally, especially considering he was playing for unsuccessful teams, and it was enough to earn him the nickname “The Finisher”, a moniker that he is again living up to for the Sharks this season.
He scored two beautiful tries against the Lions, one of them a fine finish after a break by Curwin Bosch.
“I never saw that try coming,” he admitted. “There were two guys in front of Curwin... next thing he was past them and then came a perfect pass. But this is what can happen when you play in a backline that has such good quality. All the guys are Springboks and, for me out on the wing, there is also the difference from last year in that we are getting a lot more ball in the outside channel...”
To be fair to the Sharks’ coaching staff who did not select him much in Super Rugby last year, there were elements of his game that were exposed but have now been rectified. We are talking about his lack of aerial skills and poor kicking game, both which Mapimpi acknowledges as much.
“I played a long time at Border at centre, so when I was moved out to the wing I didn’t have some of the necessary skills,” he said.@mikegreenaway67