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Springboks explain 'new' position Mapimpi is filling for first time

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Oisin Keniry/Getty Images)

Springboks boss Jacques Nienaber has shed light on why he has rejigged his entire back three at the expense of the benched Makazole Mapimpi. The 32-year-old Mapimpi was a starter in all 34 of his appearances for the 2019 World Cup champions and had been the chosen No11 for 20 of the 23 matches played since 2021 under Nienaber.

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Games versus Georgia, Argentina and last July versus Wales in Bloemfontein were the only three occasions that the name of Mapimpi hadn’t featured as the No11 on a Springboks teamsheet in the Nienaber era, but he is now set to embrace a very different role next Saturday in Marseille as he has been chosen as the 23rd man on the bench.

Nienaber has made a total of five changes to the Springboks’ starting XV to play the French following last Saturday’s 19-16 defeat to Ireland in Dublin and his decision regarding Mapimpi has resulted in the entire reshuffle of the back three.

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Willie le Roux is promoted from the replacements to start at full-back and this has led to Cheslin Kolbe, last week’s starting No15, being switched to No14 with last Saturday’s right wing Kurt-Lee Arendse switching to the left wing to take over the No11 jersey usually filed by Mapimpi.

Explaining his logic regarding Mapimpi heading into the second game of the Springboks’ four-Test end-of-year European tour, Nienaber said: “We just thought that Willie brought good direction when he came on in the second half (in Dublin).

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“He brings all that experience that he has picked up over the last couple of years. He is a well-seasoned, experienced full-back and we think with the likes of Cheslin, with the likes of Kurt-Lee and we know Makazole is a quality player that we have got three really good wings that can finish.

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“We just thought that is the best combination to face the French. We face a particular style of play that is maybe a little different to other countries and we think they are the most suited back three to handle this.”

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