Tug of war ends as Mapoe sent back to Cheetahs

2010-08-12 00:00

LIONEL Mapoe, the talented Springbok Sevens player who has been training with the Sharks, will have to play his Currie Cup rugby for the Free State Cheetahs.

Mapoe has been involved in a lengthy contractual dispute with Free State, and an arbitration hearing yesterday ruled in the Cheetahs’ favour and instructed the young wing to return immediately to Bloemfontein.

But in a dramatic twist last night, Mapoe’s agent, Jan-Harm van Wyk, told the Volksblad that the player would quit the game rather than return to the Free State.

Free State president Harold Verster said last night that his union is considering taking legal action against Van Wyk for the part he has played in attempting to entice Mapoe to break his contract and leave the Cheetahs.

Mapoe, who turned 22 last month, signed a contract with the Sharks in May, but Free State refused to grant him clearance.

The wing and his agent had claimed that Free State were in breach of contract for failing to honour salary commitments.

Allegations were made last year — by Bok coach Peter de Villiers among others — that black players are being exploited in South Africa and Mapoe fell out with Free State after claiming he was being underpaid.

He moved to Durban and has been training with John Plumtree’s squad for the last couple of months while recovering from injury, and with the Sharks paying his salary.

An arbitration hearing was held in Bloemfontien last Thursday and advocate Bertus van Rhyn yesterday released his findings, ruling that the young wing has not followed the correct procedure in terminating his contract with Free State.

Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl said yesterday that he will not be making any comment “until we have heard from our attorney and met with the player and his agent”.

Free State president Verster told reporters he is delighted with the ruling.

“It is great that the arbitration process proved what we knew all along, that we have a valid contract with Lionel,” Verster said.

“He now needs to get back to Bloemfontein today or tomorrow and rejoin the team. He needs to get his head right and play.”

Free State coach Naka Drotské said that the decision will send a powerful message to players that they have to honour contracts.

“We are very happy that we were right all along and that we had a valid contract with him,” Drotské added.

Drotské said Mapoe will be welcomed back with open arms.

“We all knew that he was personally not behind the decision to join the Sharks without our permission.

“I hope this serves as a warning to young talented players and their parents to think carefully before careers are trusted to certain agents.

“There are some agents who act in the best interests of the player and others who think only in terms of money. The latter do not always act in the interest of the player in the short-term and they can damage a player’s career,” said Drotské.

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