Springboks Mapimpi, Am on their rugby acumen: ‘We mastered the art of the game from the streets’

  • A documentary on Makazole Mapimpi recently hit screens, mapping his life from rural Twecu to Tokyo.
  • Mapimpi’s ally Lukhanyo Am gives an account of their simple way of doing things and getting the best out of each other.
  • The pair also spoke candidly of their well-orchestrated World Cup final try.

Springbok stars Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am have a simple rugby crash course for their mutual understanding on the field: listening to, and trusting one another to make the correct decision.

This information is contained in MAP1MP1, a documentary that follows the life of winger Mapimpi from his rural upbringing to being a household South African name.

Written by award-winning author Sibusiso Mjikeliso (Sport24 deputy editor), Mapimpi paints his picture of a thousand words.

Together with Am, they have built a solid reputation of moving to the same rhythm on the field with dexterous moves that often end up with a 5-pointer.

It’s something they share at franchise level with the Sharks and the Springboks have benefitted from it.

It’s well known that Mapimpi always desired to play rugby. His family, the documentary revealed, waxed lyrical about his playing with a makeshift ball from plastic waste – barefoot, but full of enthusiasm and energy.

Am calls it playing rugby “in the streets” where flair is the name of the game. He makes brief appearances in the documentary, sharing the benefits of playing without worrying about the technical side of things. 

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Am and Mapimpi have a history of playing together and naturally a connection has been built. It’s a connection that reached its zenith at the World Cup in 2019.

“Playing in the streets is always fun and games, from side stepping to passing,” Am said in the documentary.

“It’s where most of the flair comes from; you see something on television and then you try it out when you play. The technical side of the game we learned at school, where you would be coached.

“We mastered the skill of the game from the streets,” he said.

Am’s shrewdness is well documented and Mapimpi has benefitted handsomely from it.

The World Cup final try is a case in point; a move so engraved in the South African rugby’s consciousness that it is a conversation that excites players and commentators alike when referencing it.

After getting away on his wing after soft touches from Am and Malcolm Marx, the call from Am reached Mapimpi: “yibethe kwekwe, yibethe kweke” (kick it ahead, bro).

The chip and chase is a common feature of Mapimpi’s game. 

“I knew from that call, it’s time to kick it ahead,” Mapimpi recalls.

“I grabbed it (the ball) and chipped it ahead and luckily it landed in his (Am’s) direction. He received it and passed it to me, I caught it … then grounded it (for the try).”

READ | Makazole Mapimpi documentary will ‘serve his life story’ – director Bongani Morgan

He joked that he left Am’s high-five hanging because he simply had to celebrate the moment.

“I’m considering celebrating and I can see the camera is on me, and I could see Am’s high five… [but] my mind was on celebrating,” the winger candidly shared.

Both agree, during the course of the documentary that they have trust in each other, helped a great deal by the fact that they are good friends off the field as well. 

The thick as thieves pair have grown on the South African rugby market since 2019. Am is captain of the Sharks, Mapimpi has experienced rugby in Japan (something Am is currently doing), and has become a senior member of the squad at Kings Park.