Proud Mapimpi reflects on long journey to World Cup glory

“This is a big achievement for me, it's my first World Cup and I win the World Cup,” says the 29-year-old after helping South Africa clinch the title.

Time to rejoice: Makazole Mapimpi (front, centre) celebrates the title win with his South African team-mates.   -  Getty 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.

South Africa’s two previous World Cup successes, against New Zealand in 1995 and England in 2007, 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 South Africa clear with a fine try in the 66th minute after he chipped ahead and then received the ball back from centre Lukhanyo Am.

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“It means a lot for me because I'm coming from a long way, from the rural areas,” Mapimpi told reporters in a match where fellow winger Cheslin Kolbe's converted try six minutes from time completed the scoring. “I didn't make the South Africa 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.”

‘Too far from the system’

Mapimpi grew up in Tsholomnqa in the rural Eastern Cape far removed from South Africa'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. He only made his Test debut last year but he has now scored as many international tries as Test appearances, with 14 touchdowns in 14 Springboks matches.

“I remember five years back, I was playing Sunday-league club rugby,” said Mapimpi, close to tears as he spoke to reporters. “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 'how can I make it man? There's no one watching me.

“For me it was funny, because I was too far from the system. Then I got a team, then I played in Cape Town, Stellenbosch and then I got a call from Border and afterwards I played for Border in 2014, 2015. A lot of guys I was playing against went to Super Rugby so I told myself one day I can make it because I'm playing against those guys,” added Mapimpi.