Mapoe ordered back to Free State

2010-09-30 00:00

THE Sharks have lost their battle to secure the services of Springbok Sevens player Lionel Mapoe and the Bloemfontein High Court yesterday ordered the young wing to return immediately to the Free State and play his rugby for the Cheetahs.

But there was one piece of good news for the Sharks last night when Springbok number eight Ryan Kankowski received only a one-week ban for stamping on Lions flank Trevor Hall in the weekend game against the Lions. Kankowski appeared at a telephonic Saru judicial hearing chaired by Advocate Rob Stelzner yesterday and the outcome was announced last night.

Kankowski was found guilty of trampling on an opponent, although the lack of malicious intent counted in his favour and he will be available for the Currie Cup game against Western Province at Newlands next weekend. Kankowski has been omitted from the Sharks’ starting line-up for tomorrow night’s Currie Cup game against the Leopards.

In Bloemfontein, Judge Corné van Zyl ordered Mapoe to report to the Cheetahs by 3 pm today. She said that Mapoe cannot play for the Sharks before his contract with the Cheetahs ends in October next year unless he and the Cheetahs end it by consensus.

While Free State officials welcomed the outcome of the High Court action, Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl said he was not ready to comment.

“I have just received the judgement, just a few minutes ago,” Van Zyl said late yesterday, “and have not had a chance to read the 120 pages or discuss the implications with our legal team.

“I do know that Mapoe has been ordered to report to Bloemfontein by tomorrow afternoon, but I have not spoken to him. He doesn’t have a car or indeed a licence, so I’m not sure how he will make the deadline tomorrow.”

It is expected that the Sharks will now appeal the judgement although Van Zyl would not confirm this.

“We can’t make any decision until we have spoken to our lawyers.

“But I do know that Mapoe does not want to play for the Cheetahs. He feels he was exploited when he was with them.”

The Cheetahs brought an urgent application against Mapoe to force the 22-year-old to return to Bloemfontein and play for the Free Staters.

Mapoe had been practising and training with the Sharks since May.

Free State Rugby Union president Harold Verster told reporters that the court’s finding was “exceptionally good news”.

“We would like to see Mapoe playing on the Free State field and hope this has brought an end to the issue.”

Verster said he wanted Mapoe to continue his career in the Free State and play his way into the Springbok team.

“We welcome our lost son back.”

Quite how the Cheetahs intend forcing a reluctant Mapoe to play to his potential, and at the highest level, is less clear.

A member of the Free State legal team, Berd Sorour, said the court order will benefit South African rugby.

“Players must realise that they will have to honour their contracts,” he said, adding that if the Free State Rugby Union had lost it would have created chaos in the professional world of rugby.

Mapoe was yesterday not included in Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske’s squad to meet the Lions in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

Verster initially said the Cheetahs would not accept a transfer fee for Mapoe. but later told reporters that Free State would cancel his contract for R1,5 million. The Sharks, however, are believed to be prepared to pay only about R800 000 for the wing’s services.

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