Heinz Schenk
2 minute read
8 Feb 2017
12:23 pm

Lionel Mapoe: People are perhaps too harsh on us Springboks

Heinz Schenk

The Lions star believes critics can give the national side a break but admits he needs to take responsibility too.

Down but not out at all: Lionel Mapoe struggled in Bok colours last year. Photo: Gabriel Rossi/Gallo Images.

It says much about the poor state of Springbok rugby that 2016 actually put back new members of the side’s development instead of enriching them.

Lionel Mapoe is one of those players.

How could arguably the best centre in last year’s Super Rugby campaign look so brilliant at the Lions and yet so mediocre in the Green-and-Gold?

Also read: Trend-setting Lions lag behind in transformation

It’s a question that will give critics further ammunition that Allister Coetzee and his assistants aren’t suitable to coach the Boks.

But Mapoe, who played 10 Tests last year, can’t afford to hold a grudge.

“I can’t dwell on the past. It won’t help me,” he says.

“What I need to do now is be the player I was for the Lions last year. And quickly.”

The 28-year-old stalwart, who’s also more than comfortable on the wing, actually tries to take the emotion out of review the Springboks’ horror campaign under Coetzee.

“It sounds silly but I feel everyone realised again you’ve constantly got to work hard at international level. That applies to a player and a coach,” says Mapoe.

“I do wonder though if people weren’t too rough on us. I don’t think they realise how different the playing styles in South Africa are.

“Most of the squad was a new one. They had certain ways of playing in their heads. To get different players to play one style takes time. We realised it but others didn’t. Maybe we’ve taken too long to gel but I’m confident we’ll get there.”

If that sounds like a bit of a cop-out, don’t be too stressed.

Also read: Lions sweep past SupaBaabas but definitely don’t maul them

Mapoe is fully aware he didn’t cover himself in glory when he played at international level.

“I can’t blame anybody else for my performances,” he says.

“I really wasn’t happy. There isn’t even something specific I want to work on, I need to work on everything. I need to be a better defender, make better decisions and improve my positional play.

“If anything, I’m probably the guy who you can ask about our growing pains last year. I had to adapt to a different way of playing at the Boks than I’m used to at the Lions. It was quite difficult. That’s why people need to realise how important time is.”

For now though, his attention is focused on making sure the Lions continue to fly the flag high for South Africa in this year’s Super Rugby campaign.

“It’s about keeping it simple. We can’t think of reaching the final again. That will put us under unnecessary pressure,” says Mapoe.

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