Rugby Championship

Boks: Big chance for the ‘predator’?

2018-08-07 12:14
Makazole Mapimpi (Gallo)

Cape Town - Makazole Mapimpi, we already know, possesses the premier quality in a wing … a very healthy nose for the try-line.

You might even say it’s already apparent at international level: the Sharks-based speed merchant is already on the scoreboard after only one Test match for the Springboks.

Mapimpi dotted just before the hour mark in the experimental-themed, 22-20 reverse to Wales in Washington DC at the outset of Rassie Erasmus’s coaching tenure in early June.

He’s been on the side-lines since, having had to watch the impressive rise of Aphiwe Dyantyi and S’bu Nkosi during the subsequent England series, clinched 2-1.

But Nkosi’s confirmed absence through an ankle injury, which may only see him fully fit again at the back end of the Rugby Championship, has opened the door to either of franchise-mates Lwazi Mvovo or Mapimpi to claw back into front-line plans.

If Erasmus is more partial toward experience - though that didn’t seem to bother him in wing terms during the England series, did it? - then the 32-year-old former will probably be his man.

But with fullback Willie le Roux a reassuringly seasoned factor amidst the back three, a likelier, more long-term geared option would be to give Mapimpi a run of opportunities, starting against Argentina in his adopted home city on August 18.

Four years younger than Mvovo, the tallish, lean but strong Mdantsane-born express - who used to score tries as if for fun for the Kings or Cheetahs across various competitions - is hardly less exciting an attacker than the currently absent Nkosi.

Erasmus was moved to sing his praises despite the collective team difficulties in that dubious Washington exercise, calling his all-round display a “major positive”.

He made the point that Mapimpi, despite preferring more offence-minded aspects of rugby, had contested encouragingly in the air, a phenomenon Erasmus linked to his exposure to the Pro14 competition in Europe while still with the Cheetahs.

It seems to suggest the player will come very strongly into the picture for a start at No 14 against the Pumas in less than a fortnight, even if he is more familiar with the left side of the pitch (and that will have to be considered).

There is, of course, a dark horse outside of the three specialist wings named in his extended party by Erasmus on Monday: Jesse Kriel.

More accustomed to outside centre and fullback, the stocky customer has long been known to harbour many of the prerequisites for a decent wing as well.

Ironically, though, there would be certain, unmistakable and not entirely positive “flashbacks” should the Boks decide to field the Bulls player at right wing against the Pumas.

In just his third Test match (he now sports 32 caps) back in 2015, then-coach Heyneke Meyer - admittedly doing some experimenting with the looming World Cup in mind - fielded Kriel at No 14 against the very same Argentina in a shock 37-25 defeat also at Kings Park.

His positional rawness, especially, was exposed more than anticipated and it went some way to explaining why the man he was marking, Argentina’s left wing Juan Imhoff - now with Racing Metro and not considered by his national team - romped over for an historic hat-trick of tries against the more fancied foes.

Still, just as Pieter-Steph du Toit had certain teething troubles when switched from lock to blindside flank for South Africa - he has since grown considerably in the No 7 role - a revisit to wing by Kriel cannot completely be written off.

Bear in mind, though, that he remains quite firmly in the picture for the No 13 jersey, the spot he occupied in the dead-rubber defeat to England in the third Test at a rain-lashed Newlands.

Lukhanyo Am and the recalled Lionel Mapoe are also “possibles” for the outside centre post.

Right now Mapimpi, with his X-factor, does seem the most attractive candidate to fill the Bok wing vacancy for their tournament opener on Saturday week …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


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