High court to rule team for Mapoe

2010-09-24 00:00

WHILE it was confirmed yesterday that Springbok captain John Smit will be back playing his rugby in Durban next year, the Sharks will have to wait until next week to hear whether they will be able to sign wing Lionel Mapoe.

The contractual dispute over whether SA Sevens rugby player Lionel Mapoe should be a Shark or a Cheetah went to the high court in Bloemfontein yesterday.

Robert Stelzner, legal counsel for Mapoe and the Sharks, told Judge Corne van Zyl that the matter could not be decided by the court because all the relevant facts had not been put before it and should go to arbitration. Judge van Zyl reserved judgment until next week.

The Cheetahs want to force Mapoe to return to the Free State to play his rugby and not play for the Sharks before October 2011.

Meanwhile, Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl, who travelled to Bloemfontein for the court hearing, told News24 that Smit has committed himself to the Sharks for next year.

The Lions, and director of rugby Dick Muir, had reportedly made Smit a lucrative offer to move to Johannesburg, but Smit will end his career with a final fling with the Sharks. Lions Rugby Union president Kevin de Klerk, in a curiously contradictory statement, last night denied that an offer had been made to Smit.

“The Golden Lions Rugby Union never engaged with John Smit at any stage whatsoever regarding joining the Lions. We did have discussions of him possibly joining us, but we decided against making an offer at this stage.”

Smit underwent back surgery this week and he will be sidelined him for three months. Smit is expected to be fit for the Sharks’ Super 15 starting late in February.

Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts said the surgery would ensure Smit’s “availability for the Springboks and the Sharks for the 2011 season”.

While the lay-off will provide Smit with the break he needs after a prolonged period of action, there will be doubts, given the nature of the injury and the surgery, that the burly front-rower will be able to reach the necessary level of fitness in time for the new season.

With robust hooker Bismarck du Plessis also back from injury, it is expected that Sharks coach John Plumtree will also use Smit at loosehead prop — as he did in the second half of this year’s Super 14.



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