Cape Town - Rebels head coach Tony McGahan believes Amanaki Mafi has been a shining light for the Melbourne Rebels this Super Rugby season.
McGahan singled out the Japanese international after the game on Saturday for his consistent work-rate in shouldering much of the burden in the back-row this season.
“He’s been absolutely fantastic – one of the best forwards in the competition,” McGahan told the Rebels' official website.
“If you said to us at the beginning of the season that we would have no Sean McMahon, no Colby Fainga’a, no Jordy Reid and no Lopeti Timani, he’s been a one-man band.
“He’s been carrying the back-row.”
The number eight in his maiden Super Rugby season leads the Rebels for turnovers, lineout steals, tackles per game, offloads, pick and drives, runs and run meters per game according to Fox Sports.
In terms of Super Rugby, Mafi is ranked first in the competition for runs and run metres for forwards, and third overall in the competition for tackles behind Blues flanker Blake Gibson and Stormers’ Nizaam Carr.
“He works hard during the week and you couldn’t doubt every minute that he’s playing this year that he’s run everything out of himself, he competes hard on the ground and run set piece,” McGahan said.
“He’s been fantastic for us but we’re really looking forward to getting some of those other players back in to give him some help at the breakdown and on the carry because he’s been a one-man band to be honest.”
The Rebels are hoping to get Colby Fainga’a back from a thigh injury for this weekend’s game against the Reds after the flanker was a late withdrawal in the loss to the Lions last weekend.
Reigning Super Rugby player of the year Sean McMahon also nears a return for his first game of the season after an ankle and knee injury has sidelined the star for the opening 11 rounds.
McGahan paid tribute to injury recovery players Hugh Sinclair and Will Miller after the pair started against the Lions for their third career appearances.
“Will and Hugh have done a great job the last few weeks but three South African sides in a row is a fair effort on the body when you’re not used to it but I think they’ve handled themselves really well,” McGahan said.