Dick Muir, back in a coaching role at the Sharks, is already a convert of the Makazola Mapimpi magic. Muir also raved about the resurgence of Springbok winger Lwazi Mvovo in the No 15 jersey.
Muir, a legend of the Sharks as a player and coach, returns to Ellis Park this weekend against a Lions franchise close to his heart from when he was at the helm of the Johannesburg outfit.
It was Muir who lured John Mitchell to the Lions and it started the rejuvenation of the province and franchise.
Muir was also assistant Springbok coach between 2008 and 2011 and his presence with the Sharks in 2018 can only improve the overall strength of Robert du Preez’s coaching team.
Du Preez’s 2017 returns as head coach produced many positives but a disappointing Currie Cup final ending, when losing at home to Western Province.
A new competition brings new enthusiasm and new challengers – and it’s the combination of Muir and new recruits like Mapimpi that could turn the Sharks from pretenders into contenders.
Muir discussed the option of Mvovo as a fullback on the official Sharks site. Former Sharks coach Jake White used Mvovo effectively as a fullback and Mvovo also played fullback for the SA ‘A’ squad in 2017.
“He and Garth April at fullback present us with an interesting choice, but Lwazi has come back, he’s very good on the high ball and he’s been working hard on his kicking game. The balance is really important amongst the back three, I think the Lions will look to target us from a kicking perspective.”
The Sharks can also use the very talented Curwin Bosch at fullback, with Robert du Preez likely to start at flyhalf.
Du Preez, who finally reunites with his father after spending three seasons at the Stormers and WP, destroyed the Sharks in the 2017 Currie Cup final. Now the Kearsney College old boy is back in familiar surroundings, and along with Mapimpi gives the Sharks back division X-factor.
Du Preez’s talents are well known to Muir, but it is the first time he has worked with Mapimpi.
“I’ve been blown away by what he offers on the field,” said Muir. “He’s just incredibly quick, his work rate and communication on the field have all been outstanding; he’s been great. He scored something like 28 tries last year and he’s already scored a few for us. If it wasn’t for the whistle, he would probably have scored a few more.”
Mapimpi was the star of the Kings 2017 Super Rugby campaign and the speedster was as as good in the Pro 14 playing for the Cheetahs.