DURBAN – You might not think it given Makazole Mapimpi’s famous post-try celebrations but the new Sharks wing is a man of few words and extreme humility.
Take him outside the four white lines and he is a shrinking violet. Give him a rugby ball in a match situation and a sniff of the try-line and he is a lethal beast. An extrovert on the field, an introvert off it.
And there is little that he should be humble about in terms of rugby achievement, given his outrageous try-scoring record last season.
He scored 11 tries in 14 games for the Kings, then 10 tries for the Cheetahs in Pro14 plus seven for the Bloemfontein team in the Currie Cup. That amounts to 28 tries in a year.
Mapimpi is 27 going into his debut year for the Sharks and it is astonishing that this golden nugget was buried in Border club rugby for so long before Kings coach Deon Davids switched onto his talent and brought him to the Kings.
“I grew up in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape, I went to location schools, I never thought I would become a professional rugby player and only switched from soccer to rugby at the age of 10 because it was something different,” the softly spoken Mapimpi says.
Once he started playing rugby, WP and the Stormers became his team of choice because of the brand of rugby they played, and later in his career he says he drew inspiration from Gio Aplon.
“Gio was my favourite. I loved the way he attacked from the back and had no fear,” Mapimpi says. “I also liked the way Lwazi Mvovo and Odwa Ndungane played for the Sharks and it was a big honour for me to play with Lwazi last year in the SA A team.”
Mapimpi asked his Cheetahs bosses for a release to join the Sharks because he wants to play Super Rugby, having loved his time in the competition last year, including, of course, some memorable tries.
There was no Mapimpi try more notable that his corner flag score against the Queensland Reds in Brisbane, which had the Aussie commentators in raptures.
“Yes, that was my favourite, I got the ball out wide and the emotion swept me away as I started beating defenders,” Mapimpi smiles shyly.
Having run around a few defenders, Mapimpi had Karmichael Hunt to beat and he proceeded to run inside the fullback, then outside, and then inside once more before finishing out wide, with Hunt clueless as to where the wing was.
Mapimpi says that he hopes for more of the same this year but he is not getting ahead of himself.
“I am enjoying my rugby ... I have humble roots and know that I am going to have ups and downs in the game,” he says.
“I am proud of what I have achieved and very pleased to be part of a Sharks squad that wants to play attacking rugby. But I know that things are not just going to happen for me because it went well last year.
“I am starting afresh and am as hungry as ever,” Mapimpi concluded.