Lions bag Lionel Mapoe

2011-02-19 00:00

THE SA Rugby executive committee yesterday cleared Springbok sevens wing Lionel Mapoe to start for the Lions in tonight’s Super Rugby game against the champion Bulls at Ellis Park.

Mapoe last year signed contracts with both the Sharks and the Lions and was registered by both franchises. The Sharks lodged a complaint with Sanzar when Mapoe was included in the Lions team on Thursday as players cannot be registered with two franchises.

The SA executive yesterday sided with the Lions and ruled that Mapoe could start for them against the Bulls tonight.

Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl, clearly unhappy with Saru’s ruling, said the matter is far from closed.

“We are still waiting on our application to appeal the Bloemfontein High Court which ruled that our contract with him was not valid.

“He also absconded last year after spending four months with us under contract and that matter has still to be resolved.”

The three-time champion Bulls are chasing a Super hat-trick after capturing the last two editions when they tackle John Mitchell’s Lions.

Meanwhile, title rivals and seven-time winners Crusaders have an all-Kiwi blockbuster against the Blues in Auckland today, but will be without their inspirational All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw, who has been sidelined by injury for the opening six rounds.

Tournament newcomers Melbourne Rebels, coached by World Cup winner Rod Macqueen, made their debut against the Waratahs at home yesterday (on Friday) and were well-beaten 43-0 in the first of three Australian matches this weekend.

Captain Victor Matfield laid down a marker for the season ahead when he told AFP that he expected good things from the settled Bulls.

“Things haven’t changed that much during the off-season when we worked hard on improving some facets of our game, but I do feel our best is yet to come,” Matfield said.

Apart from a few injuries and the introduction of winger Bjorn Basson, the Bulls are close to the line-up which dominated the last two years.

The Lions will be looking to improve dramatically under former All Blacks coach John Mitchell after losing all their 13 matches last year.

The Crusaders will feature the three Whitelock brothers in their line-up against the Blues.

All Black lock Sam Whitelock will be joined by his siblings, George and Adam, in the starting 15, while openside flanker Matt Todd will make his debut in place of McCaw, who had surgery on a stress fracture to his foot this week.

“It’s an exciting time and we’re entering the unknown a little bit with the new format of the competition, but we are looking for a good performance against the Blues,” Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder said.

“These derby matches are very important with the new conference system and I hear there will be a big crowd at Eden Park so the atmosphere should be superb.”

There will be 20 regular season local derbies played in each country in the expanded league with a new three national Conference system leading to a three-week finals series in June-July involving six teams.

Wallaby back Matt Giteau, who will join French club Toulon after this year’s World Cup, will lead the ACT Brumbies for the first time against New Zealand’s Waikato Chiefs in Canberra today.

Former All Black skipper Tana Umaga (37) will make his Super Rugby return for the Chiefs.

The exciting Queensland Reds will look for a successful start to their season against the Western Force in an all-Australian derby in Brisbane on Sunday.

New Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett had a miserable start yesterday when his team lost 14-9 at home to the Highlanders in Wellington.

The Sharks will look to put behind last season’s disappointment when they open up against the Cheetahs in Durban today while the Cape Town-based Stormers have the opening weekend bye.

Yesterday: Hurricanes 9 Highlanders 14, Melbourne Rebels 0 Waratahs 43

Today: Blues v Crusaders (Auckland, 8.35 am – live on M-Net and SuperSport 1), Brumbies v Chiefs (Canberra, 10.40 am – live on M-Net and SuperSport 1), Sharks v Cheetahs (King’s Park, 5.05 pm – live on M-Net HD, M-Net and SuperSport 1), Lions v Bulls (Ellis Park, 7.10 pm – live on M-Net, SuperSport HD and SuperSport 1)

Tomorrow: Reds v Western Force (Brisbane 8.40 am – live on CSN and SuperSport 1)

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