Sharks CEO rubbishes rumours that Beast could still play for Lions

2011-01-13 00:00

SHARKS CEO Brian van Zyl has rubbished reports that Springbok prop Tendai Mtawarira could still move to Johannesburg and play for the Lions this year.

Van Zyl, responding to claims that the Lions still believe that the Beast is considering their lucrative offer, told The Witness yesterday that there is “absolutely no chance of the prop leaving the Sharks”.

The Golden Lions CEO, Manie Reyneke, said this week that the battle for the Beast is not over and that it is the player himself who will decide on his future.

“It’s all in Beast’s court now,” Reyneke told News24. “We have made him an offer, which is valid, and the Sharks have done the same. The final decision rests with him as to where he goes.

“It is important for the player to be happy wherever he plays,” Reyneke added, suggesting that Mtawarira may be happier on the highveld than in Durban.

A Johannesburg report said that Lions officials have said privately said they will “fight to the end” to sign Mtawarira and that his close friendship with their investment partner, IT tycoon Robert Gumede, would play a role in his decision.

But Van Zyl said yesterday this is not true.

“The Beast now has a watertight contract with the Sharks. He has agreed to our terms, he is out training hard with our squad and he is happy to be playing his rugby in Durban. He is not going anywhere.”

Jeremy Thomson, the Natal centre of the 1990s, who has acted as Mtawarira’s mentor since his move to Durban from Zimbabwe, also confirmed that the issue had been settled with the Beast staying with the Sharks.

“The right decision has been made,” said Thomson. “Tendai and the Sharks are now in full agreement and he has the right contract.

“He is happy to be staying in Durban, he knows he has made the right decision and he is looking forward to the new season,” said Thomson.

Mtawarira has signed a three-year deal to stay in Durban and the Lions’ attempts to entice him away to Johannesburg have resulted in the Sharks lodging a complaint with the SA Rugby Union.

“This is in direct breach of Saru’s regulations,” said Van Zyl. “We believe Saru should now discipline those Lions officials who approached our contracted player directly without our permission.”

The Lions, desperate to buy and build a winning team under their new Super 15 coach John Mitchell, have already signed scrumhalf Rory Kockott, wing Lionel Mapoe and young forwards Pat Cilliers and Michael Rhodes from the Sharks.

Reyneke has, meanwhile, denied reports that former Lions loose forwards Joe van Niekerk and Ernst Joubert, both contracted to European clubs, will be returning to Johannesburg before the Rugby World Cup.

Van Niekerk has been in outstanding form for Toulon, while Joubert has made a strong impact at Saracens. Both players, said Reyneke, have signed new contracts with their overseas clubs.

Attempts by the Lions to sign former Sharks utility back, Springbok Frans Steyn, have also failed. Racing Metro have confirmed they would not release Steyn as they are in contention for the French Top 14 title.

News from the Bulls camp is that prop Gurthrö Steenkamp, the SA Rugby Player of the Year in 2010, has fully recovered from a broken arm and will be fit to play for the champions in the February 19 opener against the Lions.

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