Golden Lions sniff around Sharks’ camp for prize Beast

2010-12-16 00:00

THE Golden Lions, who have been feeding voraciously on Sharks’ left­overs, now have a bigger, juicier prey in their sights in Springbok loosehead Beast Mtawarira.

The Lions, bankrolled by IT tycoon Robert Gumede and with former Sharks coach Dick Muir as their director of rugby, believe they can take advantage of loopholes in Mtawarira’s current contract and lure him away from Durban.

Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl also told The Witness yesterday that scrumhalf Rory Kockott has signed for the Lions.

The Johannesburg franchise recently persuaded Springbok sevens player Lionel Mapoe to leave Plumtree’s squad and join the Lions and the Sharks could still take legal action.

Two other young players, prop Pat Cilliers and loose forward Michael Rhodes, who were released by the Sharks, have also been signed by the Lions.

Van Zyl confirmed yesterday that the Lions are attempting to lure the Beast to Johannesburg.

“The Lions are hoping that the Beast can get out of his contract with us on technical grounds. There were some minor amendments to the original contract which the Beast did not initial,” said Van Zyl.

Van Zyl said that the only discussions about Mtawarira’s contract have been with his agent.

“The Beast is away on honeymoon at the moment and no one has spoken to him. He will be back with us on Monday to undergo his pre-season fitness assessment and we will be able to clarify the position,” he said.

“We know that the Lions are throwing huge money at him and we certainly cannot match that. But he did sign a three-year contract with us in October and I can tell you that, as far as I’m concerned, the Beast is going nowhere.”

Mtawarira was brought to the Sharks Academy after he left school in Zimbabwe and was turned from a loose forward into a Test prop.

While in Durban he has developed a cult following, which has spread throughout the rugby world and the Sharks, who helped Mtawarira in his long battle to gain South African citizenship, are now hoping that he will honour his contract.

While the loss of Mtawarira would be a major setback for the Sharks, they were expecting Kockott to move on.

The combative scrumhalf fell out of favour with coach John Plumtree during the season and was replaced by the slicker Charl McLeod.

While Kockott was dropped to the bench, McLeod played a pivotal role in the Sharks’ Currie Cup triumph and was a late addition to the Springbok tour squad.

The Sharks have also signed Western Province scrumhalf Conrad Hoffman and Kockott, rather than stay on in Durban as the third-choice scrumhalf, has finally accepted a Lions offer.

He will provide back-up for Jano Vermaak at the Lions.

The Lions, who have also contracted Blue Bull and Bok reserve hooker Bandise Maku, are attempting to sign overseas-based World Cup Springboks Butch James and Frans Steyn.

They also attempted to sign J.P. Pietersen, Ryan Kankowski, the Du Plessis brothers and John Smit but they have all signed new Sharks contracts.

Van Zyl said yesterday that an agreement with a new sponsor had been sealed and an announcement would be made early next year.

The new backers would take over the naming rights at King’s Park from Absa.

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