Court orders Mapoe to return to Cheetahs

Springbok sevens rugby player Lionel Mapoe, must return to the Free State to play for the Cheetahs, the Bloemfontein High Court ordered on Wednesday.

Judge Corne van Zyl ordered Mapoe must report to the Cheetahs’ business address in Bloemfontein before or by 3pm on Thursday, or at such a time as the Free State Cheetahs agreed to in writing.

The Cheetahs brought an urgent application against Mapoe, the KwaZulu-Natal-based Sharks and two other parties, to force Mapoe to return to the Free State and play for the Cheetahs.

Mapoe had been practising with the Sharks in the past month despite a standing contract with the Cheetahs.

In court documents Mapoe said he wanted to play for the Sharks, but the Cheetahs refused to release him.

Judge van Zyl ordered that Mapoe could not offer his services as a professional rugby player to the Sharks before his contract with the Cheetahs ended on October 31, 2011, except if he and the Cheetahs ended it by consensus.

The Sharks were prohibited from infringing on the contract between Mapoe and the Cheetahs.

The High Court also made an earlier arbitration finding by advocate AJR van Rhyn SC on the matter a court order.

The arbitrator had held that it would be best if Mapoe honour his contract with the Free State side.

Cheetah president Harold Verster said the court’s finding was “exceptionally good news” and he was happy justice had been served.

“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 hoped Mapoe could now continue his career in the Free State and that this would lead to him gaining a place in the Springbok side.

“We welcome our lost son back.”

Counsel for the Cheetahs, Berd Sorour, described the court order as a good thing for South African rugby.

“Players must realise that they will have to honour their contracts.”

He said a judgment against them would have created chaos in the professional sport.

On Wednesday, Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske said Mapoe would not be included in the 20 player group to play the Lions this weekend in Bloemfontein.

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