Makazole Mapimpi’s calm character and ego-less approach to the media make it easy to forget that out on his left wing he has mastered the art of finishing and made himself one of the Springboks’ most important players of the last three years, writes Oliver Keohane.
There needs to be such a celebration of what Mapimpi has done for the Springboks, and there needs to be an acknowledgement of the consistency and calmness with which he does it. Finishing tries is a job for Mapimpi, and when he trots over to dot down it always seems a little like a fulfillment of an expectation, rather than a luxury of five points.
It’s an expectation South Africans are lucky to hold, because very few wingers in world rugby produce a try nearly every time they play, but it’s an expectation that Mapimpi has created for himself with quite an astounding track record. Debuting in 2018, he has scored a try for the Springboks against every Test team he has played. I would say country, but he also added the British & Irish Lions to the tally earlier this year. His strike rate reads 19 tries in 24 tests, making for a try ratio of 79.2%. This is the same strike rate as former Springbok centre Danie Gerber, who also scored 19 tries in 24 Tests after debuting nearly 40 years before Mapimpi, in 1980.
Prior to the Springbok game against Scotland, SA Rugby Magazine posted a tweet saying, “Makazole Mapimpi has not scored against Scotland. Yet…”. The joke was that Mapimpi was yet to play Scotland, and true to form he ran in two tries to help his side home to a 30-15 victory in Edinburgh.
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) November 10, 2021
Mapimpi’s hit list reads as follows: Wales, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Namibia, Italy, England, British & Irish Lions and now Scotland.
During the Rugby World Cup he scored scored six tries in six games, with the most notable being the first try of the final. Assisted by Lukhanyo Am, that try would make for the first to have ever been scored by a Springbok in a World Cup final. Over a year and a half later, in arguably the closest that one could ever come to the pressure or scale of a World Cup final, Mapimpi crossed over against the British & Irish Lions in the decisive second Test, which the Springboks would go on to win before claiming the series in the third Test.
Mapimpi must also be credited with much more than simply finishing. He is one of the best chasers around, his inside step is as effective in straightening the line and ensuring the ball stays in play as his outside swerve is effective in leaving defenders scrambling, and his improvement under the high ball has been a spectacular transformation from a weakness early on in his career to a strength every time he pulls on the Springbok jersey.
But it is his finishing which we must so loudly applaud, because very few are able to do what is asked of them as easily and consistently as Mapimpi manages to add five points to the Springbok total nearly every weekend.
Though the Springboks have been snubbed by World Rugby with regards to recognition through awards , the world of rugby is very much in acknowledgment of the individuals who have allowed South Africa so much success in 2021. Mapimpi is one of those individuals, and he finishes off the year as one of the best finishers in the world.
WATCH: Mapimpi’s 14 tries in 14 Tests
WATCH: Mapimpi’s brace against Scotland