Cool Calvin Nash relishing chance to face Springbok Mapimpi 

The merest glance at Mapimpi’s resume or the briefest view of the Sharks flyer’s highlight reel suggests fear should be one of the first emotions to emerge from the pit of one’s stomach
Cool Calvin Nash relishing chance to face Springbok Mapimpi 

NO FEAR: Calvin Nash during a Munster Rugby squad training session at Thomond Park. Pic: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

It says much about Calvin Nash’s development into a first-choice wing at Munster that the thought of a direct duel with World Cup winner Makazole Mapimpi in Durban on Saturday does not faze him in the slightest.

The merest glance at Mapimpi’s resume or the briefest view of the Sharks flyer’s highlight reel suggests fear should be one of the first emotions to emerge from the pit of one’s stomach yet the 25-year-old Munster wing insists excitement is his instinctive reaction to the prospect of facing one of the Springboks’ most dangerous strike runners.

While South Africa’s back three of Mapimpi, Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse are often starved of ball in a forward-oriented gameplan, the impact they can have when it does go through the Boks backline is stunning and it is the same in the Sharks backfield.

Whether Mapimpi, 32, lines up alongside fellow wing Werner Kok or Marnus Potgeiter and has Boeta Chamberlain behind them as the last line of defence at full-back, there is plenty of incentive for the likes of Jaden Hendrikse and Lukhanyo Am to move the ball wide. 

It promises to be a supreme examination of the collective abilities of Mike Haley, Shane Daly and Nash to not just deal with their attacking threats but for Munster as a team to get the ball to the edges and start testing their defensive faculties.

We will find see how that plays out from 12:30pm Irish time on Saturday when Munster’s Heineken Champions Cup campaign reaches the knockout stage on new ground in South Africa in a Round of 16 tie at Kings Park but for now, Nash is a lot cooler than the heat and humidity awaiting him at sea level in Durban.

"The fear hasn't kicked in yet if there is going to be fear anyway,” he said. “It should be exciting, you're playing against one of the best players in the world and in European competition now with the South African teams coming in, there's even better players involved.

"You should just be excited about the challenge and about what's going to happen.” 

Nash’s excitement is undoubtedly a by-product of the positivity oozing through this Munster squad under the management of Graham Rowntree and his assistants Mike Prendergast, Denis Leamy and Andi Kyriacou. 

The wing described it as a “constant growth mindset” and it has continued despite last Saturday’s shock 38-26 URC defeat at home to Glasgow Warriors.

"Yeah look, it's a very positive environment… which is obviously quite good.

"We did need a bit of a kick from last week but at the same time it's all about development and as long as you're giving it your all, all of the coaches can see that and they're quite happy to help you and keep driving you on.

"It's been a breath of fresh air, really, with Prendy and Leams coming in and just the way that they coach, just their constant growth mindset.” 

The incoming coaching ticket has happily coincided with Nash’s rising confidence as a Munster starter, in part enabled by injuries to international wings Keith Earls and Andrew Conway, that have allowed both he and Daly to flourish this season thanks to extended gametime. 

Rowntree is not the first head coach to place his trust in Nash but nor has the player started more games in a season than this time around, particularly in the Champions Cup.

Johann van Graan gave him his European debut against Ospreys in 2020 but that was his one and only appearance in the competition until these season when starts in all four pool games make up a third of his 12 outings in the number 14 jersey.

To Nash, rising confidence, playing a more expansive gameplan and the backing of his coaches have gone hand-in-hand.

"Yeah, I think it could be a bit of both, to be honest. Like, the attacking rugby, I've enjoyed it and it's not as much fun chasing box kicks.

"As wingers with Prendy, we're allowed to float around a lot more and get more involved and Prendy has kind of helped me with my involvements in the game as well, that would have been a work on of mine since I was younger, just trying to get involved in the game in attack more so, just offer up.

The current Champions Cup campaign has taken Nash on another learning curve, as he explained.

"Like, URC is a great competition but obviously when there's that European buzz around, teams go to another level.

"So especially the games that we've had, the Toulouse games and Northampton games, they were some of the hardest games I've played physically, and you're out of breath a good bit more than some of the URC games that you might play.

"But yeah, look, our training this year has gone to another level as well so that could potentially have made it a tiny bit easier of a transition, but I wouldn't say it's a massive difference.” 

The occasion awaiting Munster at Kings Park should be quite different though and it is one to relish, the Munster wing agreed.

"Exactly, yeah, a massive challenge and it's going to be a great atmosphere as well, I'd imagine.

"It's a massive privilege to go down to South Africa to play for Munster and hopefully get a first win there as well.”

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