Vodacom Super Rugby
Mapoe not scared of Bloem
Lionel Mapoe (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg – Lionel Mapoe couldn’t care less about the anticipated hot reception from the Cheetahs supporters when he plays for the Lions against his former team in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The 22-year-old wing stopped attending Cheetahs training sessions in May last year and joined the Sharks – a move that resulted in a huge tug-of-war. Mapoe was ultimately snapped up by the Golden Lions Rugby Union (GLRU).
“I don’t really care what they say or think down there. We’re going there to do our thing and win,” Mapoe said this week when asked about the possibility of a hostile reception at Vodacom Park.
Mapoe did not want to continue playing for the Cheetahs last year and was determined to continue his rugby career elsewhere. People gained an understanding of his situation when details were revealed about the poor salary he was receiving at the Cheetahs.
But try telling someone in Bloemfontein that. There it is being viewed as a lack of loyalty.
The Lions and Cheetahs reached an agreement for Mapoe to make the move to Johannesburg – even if the player says he is not earning a fortune at the GLRU.
Even so, the chances are good that “The player who did not want to play for the Cheetahs” will get a hostile reception in Bloemfontein.
“I’m still very happy about my decision to move,” said Mapoe.
“Things can only get better from here on. I’m approaching Saturday’s game like any other. It’s not about me, it’s about the team. We’re going there to do our job and to win.”
Mapoe said that the Cheetahs are an unpredictable team, but he expects them to “Come with everything because they also have not yet won a game this year”.
“I have not played against them in Bloemfontein yet. But I know the culture there – they will get stuck in from the outset. We just have to stick to our game plan and then we will get through the challenge.”
Another former Cheetah - lock David de Villiers - is training with the Lions on a daily basis, even though he is yet to play a game as he is being conditioned.
De Villiers has been a key player in the lineouts for the Cheetahs in recent seasons, but was not offered a contract by them last year.
While he did not play with new Cheetahs lineout kingpin Wilhelm Steenkamp, he will know enough about their tactics in the lineouts to provide some valuable insight for the Lions.