World Cup-winning Springbok wing
Makazole Mapimpi is bound to become a big hit in Japan, former Lions
coach Johan Ackermann has predicted.
The 30-year-old Mapimpi rose
to prominence after becoming the first Bok to score a try in a World Cup
final in Japan last year. In his 14 Test matches for the national side, he had also delivered a superb strike-rate, scoring 14 tries.
Mapimpi was set to join Ackermann at the Docomo Red Hurricanes in Japan, but both player and coach remained stuck in South Africa as they waited for border restrictions to be eased.
“I’m hoping he will bring a bit of confidence in that back three, with that experience he has from the World Cup,” said Ackermann, who recently resigned from his post at Gloucester to take up his new job with the Japanese club.
“It will obviously be great if he is still in the form that he was over the last year or two.”
Mapimpi would still be available for the Boks, and he was also expected to return for the Sharks next year in the Super Rugby competition, if it went ahead in its current cross-nation format.
“I think if we can create space for him and give him hopefully enough quality ball, he could show why he is so highly rated,” Ackermann said.
“Hopefully he still has that finishing touch he has showcased over the last few seasons because every time he is in possession he brings that X-factor with the many tries he has scored.”
Ackermann felt Mapimpi had grown a
lot as a player, proving his ability on defence and under the high ball.
“I just want every player to be himself and express himself, and the way Mapimpi has played in recent
times with that passion and commitment, he puts a lot of pressure on
the opposition when he chase kicks with his great speed.”
Though he was reluctant to put unnecessary pressure on Mapimpi, Ackermann believed their new recruit could motivate the rest of the Hurricanes squad if he played with confidence.
“I think he can also help a lot with the Japanese players around him –
the wings and whoever will play at fullback – so that’s my expectation, that he will bring the same energy and also
maybe score a lot of tries for us,” Ackermann said.
“He is just a fantastic player and I just want him to enjoy the ride, and when that happens we will hopefully tick the right boxes.”