Mapimpi reflects on long journey to World Cup glory

SHINING STAR: Makazole Mapimpi of SA is tackled by Maro Itoje of England during the Rugby World Cup final against England at the International Stadium Yokohama on Saturday, where Mapimpi made history by scoring SA's first try in a World Cup final.
SHINING STAR: Makazole Mapimpi of SA is tackled by Maro Itoje of England during the Rugby World Cup final against England at the International Stadium Yokohama on Saturday, where Mapimpi made history by scoring SA's first try in a World Cup final.
Image: STEVE HAAG/GALLO IMAGES

An emotional Makazole Mapimpi said he had come a “long way” after the winger became the first South African to score a Rugby World Cup final try during the Springboks’ 32-12 triumph over England on Saturday.

SA’s two previous World Cup successes, against New Zealand in 1995 and England 12 years later, had seen them kick all their points.

But the 29-year-old Sharks star wrote a new chapter in his already remarkable career by putting SA clear with a fine try in the 66th minute after he chipped ahead and then received the ball back from centre Lukhanyo Am.

“It means a lot for me because I’m coming from a long way. I’m blessed. I’m from the rural areas,” Mapimpi told reporters after a match where fellow winger Cheslin Kolbe’s converted try six minutes from time completed the scoring.

“I didn’t make the SA schools team. It means a lot for me, but also for boys from rural areas, the boys who didn’t go to private schools.

“This is a big achievement for me, it’s my first World Cup and I win the World Cup.”

Meanwhile, Mapimpi said “I didn't know about that” when he was told he had scored the Springboks’ first World Cup final try.

“I got the ball from Malcolm [Marx], I saw Lukhanyo on my inside, I chipped the ball, he got the ball back and then I saw there was no-one in front of me.”

Mapimpi grew up in Tsholomnqa in the rural Eastern Cape far removed from SA’s traditional rugby breeding grounds, with the flyer’s early years marked by a succession of family tragedies that saw him lose his mother, sister and brother.

“I’ve seen a lot of things. Things I don’t like,” he said.

“A lot of things happen in SA that affect us. We fight to push those things away. Girls getting raped, things like that,” he said.

He made his Test debut only in 2018 but he has now scored as many international tries as he has Test appearances, with 14 touchdowns in 14 Springbok matches.

He signed his first professional contract before featuring for the Southern Kings in Super Rugby in 2017.

“I remember five years back, I was playing Sunday league club rugby,” Mapimpi, who was close to tears as he spoke to reporters, said.

“There’s no professional league in the rural areas and one of my friends told me ‘you can make it man’. I told the guy ‘No, bro, no-one is watching me. We are too far from the system’.

“I got a call asking me to play for Southern Kings and I started to believe one day, I can make it.”  - AFP

Following the Springboks' record-equalling third Rugby World Cup win on November 2 2019, the South African rugby heroes have been celebrated across the world. From a shoutout from tennis legend Roger Federer, to Faf de Klerk's unique encounter with Prince Harry - here are some of the standout moments from the aftermath of the Springbok victory.

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