When Southern Kings flanker Ruaan Lerm celebrates a 50th Pro14 cap, he’ll dedicate it to an unlikely, but special friend: Sharks and Springbok star Makazole Mapimpi.
Indeed, the 27-year-old former Lion still raves over the “brotherhood” the two men have shared over the years.
Yet their relationship started in the strangest way possible – a mutual misunderstanding of each other when both rocked up for the pre-season in 2017’s final Super Rugby campaign.
“One of the memories close to my heart – and to this day people still ask about it – is the relationship that I have with Makazole,” said Lerm.
“His English and my English at that stage was not very good. Every break during training or on tour we would sit next to each other and he would speak isiXhosa and I would speak Afrikaans even though we would not fully understand each other.”
But the two men’s linguistic skills eventually improved and though they’ve been separated by the tides of professionalism, they remain in contact.
“Up until today we call each other and the first thing he says to me is ‘Wat sê jy?’ (What are you saying?). That’s what I used to say to him because I could not understand him. That is something special that I treasure and will keep with me for a long time – the friends that we make.”