• Mapimpi set for Japan ‘sabbatical’

    Star Springbok wing Makazole Mapimpi will take up a stint in Japan from September before returning to the Sharks in April 2021, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

    Most recently, it was confirmed that Mapimpi had committed to the Sharks despite being one of the players who was sought after during a 21-day period when local players had the option to cancel their current contract in favour of overseas offers.

    READ: Sharks ‘relieved, happy’ to keep stars

    However, it has been confirmed to SARugbymag.co.za that Mapimpi has been granted permission to join NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes in Japan from September to April.

    He will then return to the Sharks as part of his contract that runs until 2023.

    Stints in Japan are increasingly common for South African players, and this one will be primarily seen as a bit of prudent business for the Sharks to ensure the World Cup-winning star can experience playing overseas and make money there, while remaining committed to the Durban-based side.

    However, with competition unlikely to resume before September due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Mapimpi is unlikely to feature for the Sharks again this year, while he would miss the start of next year’s Vodacom Super Rugby campaign.

    Although there have also been reports that Lukhanyo Am could similarly undertake a ‘sabbatical’ of sorts, no such deal is in place currently, while he remains contracted to the Sharks until 2022.

    It’s also believed there are several top players who are set to commit long term to the Sharks.

    Recently, when Mapimpi and Am confirmed their intention to remain in Durban, Sharks CEO Eduard Coetzee said it spoke volumes about the culture they are looking to create.

    ‘It shows the players’ confidence in what we’re doing,’ Coetzee added. ‘It’s backing up what we’re putting in place, and shows that players can trust us. We’re pretty relieved, but also just very happy that no one else is heading out the door.’

    Watch: Sharks prep for return to training 

    Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

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    Craig Lewis