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The very special story of how Makazole Mapimpi went from walking 10kms to his rural school to Springboks fame

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South Africa's Makazole Mapimpi has come from nowhere to World Cup fame in the space of 16 months (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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Mzwandile Stick has told the incredible tale of how Makazole Mapimpi has come to Test level fame despite his upbringing in the Eastern Cape. 


It was only June 2018 when the 29-year-old finally came to prominence with the Springboks, Rassie Erasmus handing him an international debut versus Wales in Washington DC. 

Sixteen months later those same two countries are meeting in Sunday’s World Cup semi-final in Yokohama and Mapimpi has demonstrated in the interim period he is the real deal at this level. 

In a dozen Test outings, he has scored 13 tries, pouncing for five tries in his four matches at the World Cup, and he will be even more of a go-to player for the Boks this weekend now that fellow winger Cheslin Kolbe is absent through injury. 

“It’s a very special story,” said Stick, reflecting on how Mapimpi made the breakthrough at international level at a relatively late age. 

(Continue reading below…)

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“He comes from a rural area in the Eastern Cape, a place called Tsholomnqa. As a youngster, he would walk 10 kilometres a day to school.

“That is the background he comes from. The coaches and players always laugh when I tell the story of how, in the rural areas, if you kick a rugby ball, the coach will take you off the field.

“You are not allowed (to kick). You are supposed to run and catch, that’s all. So, he was never exposed to a game where there was kicking and aerial skills and stuff. He was always very fit, very dedicated to what he wanted to achieve.


“When we invited him to our camp last year, we knew what we were dealing with and just wanted to make sure we give him the best possible support to improve his game.

“As you can see, he has developed as a player. It’s a nice story to tell youngsters. Irrespective of your background, if you really work hard, and your opportunity comes, you need to be ready.

“I am happy with where Makazole is at the moment. He still has room for improvement, but with the players around him, I see him going far.”

WATCH: James McOnie, Mils Muliaina and Steven Bates preview the World Cup semi-finals on the Bill Ellis podcast

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