Mapoe has been one of the stand out players in the Lions team this year and was rewarded with a call-up to the Bok training squad. Other Lions players in the select grouping are captain Warren Whiteley and scrumhalf Faf de Klerk.
Ackermann conceded his view on Mapoe is biased, but said the centre wouldn’t let down a World Cup team.
“Lionel’s up there (with the best),” said Ackermann. “Of course I’m biased in saying that, but he can play outside centre, right and left wing and probably even inside centre. He’d be great from off the bench and like Juan de Jongh he has that X-factor.
“He’s worked hard on his conditioning and it’s paying off right now. He’s got a lot of confidence, but I also know coaches look at different things in players and you’d have to see where he could fit into a team.”
A number of Lions players have stuck up their hands this season, but Ackermann said it would be difficult for Bok boss Heyneke Meyer to all of a sudden pick a bunch of new players for the World Cup.
“A lot of guys are pushing (for higher selection) but you’ve got to remember Heyneke’s worked with more or less the same group for four years, building the squad and creating experience; that’s why he’s invested in certain players.
“He’d have to ask himself if one guy’s much better than another or are they very similar. There are a lot of things to consider when making a selection.
“The reality is we have a lot of very talented players in South Africa and picking a squad for the World Cup is not an easy decision.”
With national captain Jean de Villiers battling hard to get over his knee injury to make the World Cup, there could yet be a place on the plane to England for Mapoe.
But, as is the case in most positions, there’s plenty of competition in midfield. Jan Serfontein, JP Pietersen and Damian de Allende look to be favourites to make the squad, but Meyer has now also opened the door for De Jongh to impress him in training and so too Cheetahs midfielder Francois Venter.
One centre who doesn’t look like he’s in favour – following his falling out with Meyer last year – is Sharks hardman Frans Steyn, who hasn’t been invited to the training camps – set for May and June in Johannesburg and Cape Town respectively. The other notable omission is Bulls lock Flip van der Merwe.
Two squads of 44 players each have been invited to the training camps. The only new faces invited are Vincent Koch, Cheslin Kolbe and De Klerk of the Lions.
The other uncapped players invited to one or both of the camps are Ruan Botha, Robbie Coetzee, Jacques du Plessis, Steven Kitshoff, Lappies Labu-schagne, Scarra Ntubeni, Lizo Gqoboka, Bongi Mbonambi, Michael Rhodes, Demetri Cat-rakilis, Jesse Kriel, Rudy Paige, Kobus van Wyk, Nic Groom and centres Mapoe and Venter.
“The door to Springbok selection is never closed and by inviting these players we are rewarding great form for their franchises in Super Rugby,” said Meyer.
“The amazing thing is that most of these 19 uncapped players have been involved with us before, but I’m always excited to work with new players.”
Players based abroad were not considered for the camps, while their Super Rugby tours means the involvement of players from the Sharks and Bulls will be limited to one camp each. The squads may change subject to further injuries. The Rugby World Cup squad will be announced at the end of August.
The Springbok training squads (44 each) are:
Johannesburg camp (Sharks on tour) – May 3-6:
Forwards (26): Arno Botha, Ruan Botha, Heinrich Brüssow, Schalk Burger, Nizaam Carr, Robbie Coetzee, Lood de Jager, Jacques du Plessis, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Dean Greyling, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Siya Kolisi, Lappies Labuschagne, Frans Malherbe, Victor Matfield, Teboho Mohoje, Trevor Nyakane, Scarra Ntubeni, Coenie Oosthuizen, Pierre Spies, Adriaan Strauss, Marcel van der Merwe, Duane Vermeulen, Warren Whiteley.
Backs (18): Bjorn Basson, Demetri Catrakilis, Damian de Allende, Juan de Jongh, Faf de Klerk, Jean de Villiers, Cornal Hendricks, Francois Hougaard, Elton Jantjies, Jesse Kriel, Pat Lambie, Willie le Roux, Lionel Mapoe, Rudy Paige, Handré Pollard, Jan Serfontein, Kobus van Wyk, Francois Venter.
Cape Town camp (Bulls on tour) – May 31-June 3:
Forwards (27): Willem Alberts, Ruan Botha, Heinrich Brüssow, Schalk Burger, Nizaam Carr, Marcell Coetzee, Robbie Coetzee, Lood de Jager, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jean Deysel, Eben Etzebeth, Lizo Gqoboka, Ryan Kankowski, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Siya Kolisi, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Teboho Mohoje, Tendai Mtawarira, Scarra Ntubeni, Coenie Oosthuizen, Michael Rhodes, Duane Vermeulen, Warren Whiteley.
Backs (17): Demetri Catrakilis, Damian de Allende, Juan de Jongh, Faf de Klerk, Jean de Villiers, Nic Groom, Cornal Hendricks, Elton Jantjies, Cheslin Kolbe, Pat Lambie, Willie le Roux, Lionel Mapoe, Lwazi Mvovo, JP Pietersen, Cobus Reinach, Kobus van Wyk, Francois Venter. - The Star
Original source: Mapoe’s chance to impress Bok coach