Former Springbok centre Lionel Mapoe has opened up about Stade Français’ turbulent times during Heyneke Meyer’s tenure in charge.
Mapoe joined Stade in 2019, but has recently announced that he has been released by the club and has since joined French third division side Nice.
Speaking to RugbyPass.com, Mapoe said Stade’s Test-laden squad couldn’t perform because the team struggled to find its identity under Meyer.
‘We struggled to find our identity and how we wanted to play,’ Mapoe said. ‘With the type of players we had, we could well have been a top-five team. I don’t think the style Heyneke Meyer wanted to play suited most of the players and the calibre of player we had. Some players weren’t happy; some weren’t playing to their full potential – including me.
‘Some weekends, we changed a lot and we weren’t too consistent. It was difficult to find that identity. You can have world-class players but if you’re not all in sync, you won’t play to your potential. We have world-class players but we still ended up last.
‘The potential of the group is massive. If Heyneke could have gotten us all with the same mindset towards what he was trying to achieve, we would probably have been much better off. Last place doesn’t reflect the group of players we had.’
Because of the global coronavirus pandemic, Stade have had to release several players due to increasing financial constraints. Mapoe was among those who were let go and initially found himself with no job until Nice made him an offer.
‘Most of the time, we take what we do for granted. I have never found myself in a position like this before where I was worried for my family.
‘At Stade, we were very happy but when the pandemic hit, the club started to cut costs. I had to dig deep and believe that I would find a club interested in my services knowing that I had only played twelve games last season. A lot of high-class players who played international rugby are struggling to find contracts at the moment. I could well have been sitting here without a job. Stade Nicois gave me that opportunity again and I’m just really thankful.’
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