Every Sharks supporter adores the energy and cutting-edge skill Makazole Mapimpi brings to the side, but the World Cup star will sit out for another couple of weeks following his return from Japan.
Mapimpi wasn’t even named on the bench on Thursday for Saturday’s Rainbow Cup match against the Stormers at Kings Park.
Mapimpi has been on loan to Johan Ackermann’s NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes side for more than a year, helping them to the Top League quarterfinals, and returned to Durban last week.
Sharks coach Sean Everitt is delighted to have his ace finisher back, but explained on Thursday why he is not rushing Mapimpi back into action just yet.
“Makazole has been amazing for us both on and off the field, it’s a pleasure to have him back, and he’s always in good nick conditioning-wise,” said Everitt.
“But he hasn’t trained much with the team yet and a full week’s training will do him good. We have a bye next week when the Springboks will be away at their alignment camp, and then he will be up for selection for us the following week when we travel to the Lions.
“He said he really enjoyed the experience in Japan, he’s someone who likes to learn, he prides himself on learning something new every day. So it was enriching for him and he has come back with some really good ideas. He said there are only slight differences in detail to what they were doing in Japan. But he’s shared a lot of info with us, different coaches bring different things and he learnt a lot playing with TJ Perenara.”
But while the Sharks have welcomed back one Springbok in Mapimpi, they have lost another in loose-forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe, who had surgery this week on a ruptured patella tendon and will unfortunately be out for several months. Henco Venter will move to eighthman, with Thembelani Bholi taking the number seven jersey.
While Everitt said it will not change their attacking shape, the hard-grinding Venter is clearly an eighthman in different clothing to the more expansive, linking Notshe.
“It’s devastating for Sikhumbuzo because he was a form No 8 and would probably have gone with Duane Vermeulen to the Springboks for the Lions series, but he’s in a positive space after successful surgery. He will unfortunately be out for a while,” Everitt said.
“We have lots of options at eight, Phepsi Buthelezi has done the job there before, Siya Kolisi plays eighthman as well. But we just felt Henco is more suited to how we want to play, we need a more experienced team against a very experienced Stormers pack.”