Makazole Mapimpi was reduced to a kick-chaser in Townsville, and didn’t have much room to manoeuvre against the Wallabies in the previous fortnight, but he’ll be hoping for some space tomorrow.
THERE were about 23 minutes gone in the Springboks’ 2019 Rugby World Cup opener against the All Blacks in Yokohama when Richie Mo’unga received the ball from Aaron Smith just outside his 22.
The score was 3-3, and New Zealand were under pressure in their own half, even though George Bridge managed to tap the ball back to Smith from his own box-kick.
But the genius flyhalf had seen that Lukhanyo Am and Makazole Mapimpi had charged up in defence to close off the outside pass – but they hadn’t reckoned that Mo’unga could deliver an inch-perfect kick-pass that went slightly backwards to find an unmarked Sevu Reece close to the touchline.
Mapimpi’s speed got him to the All Black No.14 in time, but instead of trusting the cover defence on his inside, the Bok No.11 gave Reece the outside, and that’s all the Crusaders star needed.
Reece sped away down the right and found Smith, who fed a charging Ardie Savea. The move ended in Bridge scoring, and a few minutes later, Anton Lienert-Brown made a sensational break to set up Scott Barrett’s try.
From 3-3 to a 17-3 lead, the All Blacks had knocked the stuffing out of the Boks in four minutes, and it ended in a 23-13 defeat.
But while the South Africans went on to clinch their third World Cup title, that loss to the Kiwis was an unwanted blemish on their record in Japan, and last week’s 19-17 loss in Townsville hurt the Boks as much.
Tomorrow’s final Rugby Championship showdown at the Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast (12.05pm SA time kick-off) represents an ideal chance for Mapimpi to redeem himself.
That’s because Reece was brought back into the All Black starting line-up yesterday by coach Ian Foster, following Bridge’s nightmare display last weekend, where he dropped a Faf de Klerk box-kick that gave Sbu Nkosi an easy try, while Rieko Ioane moves from outside centre to left wing, with Reece replacing Will Jordan on the right.
Lienert-Brown returns at No.13 as well, so Foster has opted for more attacking firepower in his backline, with Mo’unga on the bench, returning from Covid-19 quarantine.
“It clearly was an area (handling the box-kicks) we felt we needed to improve from last week, and they’ve got a real focus for that,” Foster said about his back-three selection. “Sevu has played really well, I think Rieko has gone well too, and our back-three perhaps weren’t at the level we needed them to be last week. So, clearly a message has been sent.”
On the Bok side, Mapimpi would want to deliver his own message, to Reece and the All Blacks. The 31-year-old has an excellent try-scoring record of 16 in 21 Tests, but has not dotted down against the Kiwis in three matches – the 16-16 draw and the 23-13 defeat in 2019, and last week’s 19-17 Townsville loss.
How sweet wouldn’t it be for the Border Bulldogs product to break that duck against the All Blacks tomorrow? Mapimpi is a class act, as he proved in the World Cup quarter-final against Japan with a superb early try, and of course becoming the first South African to score in a final following that memorable passage of play with Am against England.
But will he get the ball? Mapimpi was reduced to a kick-chaser in Townsville, and didn’t have much room to manoeuvre when he did get the ball against the Wallabies in the previous fortnight.
Just imagine he has a one-on-one in space against Reece …