'Most improved' Mapimpi earns shot against 'big boys'

Makazole Mapimpi (Gallo)
Makazole Mapimpi (Gallo)

Durban - One of the standout selections ahead of Saturday's Rugby Championship clash between the Springboks and Argentina in Durban is the inclusion of Makazole Mapimpi on the right wing. 

The 28-year-old has been one of the form finishers in South African rugby over the past two seasons, first at the Kings, then at the Cheetahs and now with the Sharks. 

Mapimpi earned a Springbok debut when he was part of a watered-down side that went down to Wales in Washington back in June in what was coach Rassie Erasmus' first match in charge of the national side. 

Since then, though, there have been concerns over his aerial ability and defensive frailties. 

In the build-up to Saturday's Kings Park Test, there was talk that Erasmus would back the experience of Sharks stalwart Lwazi Mvovo at wing. 

S'bu Nkosi was the man who got the job done against England, and along with Aphiwe Dyantyi he was impressive in his first Test experience. 

But with Nkosi out with an injured ankle, Erasmus has given Mapimpi his chance. 

It is a story of how hard work and a willingness to learn pays off. 

Speaking on Thursday shortly after announcing his side, Erasmus explained that Mapimpi's selection came down to the player putting his head down and working on his flaws.

The attacking flair was never in question, but now it seems that Mapimpi has developed the areas of his game that were not up to Test standard.

"We all know what he can do. He scores tries and he’s got tremendous x-factor with ball in hand," Erasmus said.

"He’ll be the first guy to put up his hand and say there were certain technical areas where he struggled … like with the high ball and sometimes with defensive systems.

"But if I had to rank players in the squad of 35 who have improved the most, then he would be No 1 in terms of hard work.

"He’s always fit, he’s always available and in certain areas if he was 4 or 5 out of 10, he’s close to 8 and 9 now.

"He’s improved tremendously in the areas that he was weak, and he’s obviously very strong in attack. It’s wonderful to give him a chance against the big boys now."

Teams:

South Africa

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Makazole Mapimpi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Siya Kolisi (captain), 6 Francois Louw, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Lionel Mapoe, 23 Damian Willemse

Argentina

15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Bautista Ezcurra, 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matias Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Agustin Creevy (captain), 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro

Substitutes: 16 Diego Fortuny, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Tomas Lavanini, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Juan Cruz Mallia
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England 421/10
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