The rise of pocket-rocket Kurt-Lee Arendse, and the introduction of the exciting prospect that is Canan Moodie, makes it a tantalisingly easy and one-sided discussion that it is best to discard the old and ship in the new.
Johannesburg – Recently, there has been a narrative that has reared its head that clearly decrees that Makazola Mapimpi’s time as a Springbok is over.
It is easy to understand why.
The rise of pocket-rocket Kurt-Lee Arendse, and the introduction of the exciting prospect that is Canan Moodie into the national set-up, makes it a tantalisingly easy and one-sided discussion that it is best to discard the old and ship in the new.
Mapimpi, after all, is no spring-chicken anymore and at 32 has entered the twilight of his career. In Arendse and Moodie, the Boks have two younger men – the latter has only recently stepped out of his teenage years to join the rest of us in adulting – that are just as talented.
Mapimpi then, has a growing list of detractors that have been swooned by the shiny new arrival of that duo and that quarter of the fanbase will feel he will have to put in a massive shift against England on Saturday (kick-off 7.30pm) to justify his continued participation at Test level.
The veteran of 35 Tests will start the final match of Boks’ End of Year Tour in the No.11 jumper, filling the shoes of Cheslin Kolbe, who has returned to France due to club commitments and the fact that the upcoming clash falls outside of the Test window.
Of course, that opinion above is not universal – Mapimpi still has many supporters, Jacques Nienaber included.
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The Bok mentor was at pains to explain at the team announcement on Tuesday that the recent omission of Mapimpi had very little to do with the wing’s ability. Rather, it is a concerted effort by the team’s management to give other players an opportunity to earn experience and further develop their game at the highest level.
Reading between the lines, it is also clear that Mapimpi’s role within the team has changed from greenhorn to a more senior mentorship within the squad.
“Sometimes there are just a bunch of guys that are in-front of you (that need game time),” Nienaber explained in Afrikaans, “and that is why (Mapimpi) hasn’t had many opportunities lately.
“It is not because he isn’t good enough. There are a few guys that have now got a bit more experience and who are ahead of him in the pecking order at this level.
“Makazole knows what we are trying to achieve in terms of our strategies against the teams we have recently played; and to give a guy like Kurt-Lee a bit more experience. That is how tight this group is – we can make changes like that without it affecting the players.”
Indeed, Nienaber mused, the fact that Mapimpi can easily sit on the sidelines was a show of strength and a clear indication that the plan to build depth ahead of the Rugby World Cup in France next year, is well on track.
“Obviously,” he continued, “the guys are disappointed when they are not chosen, but they get over it quickly and you start helping the match-day team prepare.
“With Makazole, we know the quality that we have but we have built our depth if you look at the development of Canan and Kurt-Lee.
“We also have Cheslin there, and we haven’t even touched on Sbu (Nkosi), who is injured, or Aphelele Fassi, who is also injured. We have lekker depth there in that department now,” he concluded.