Outgoing Rebels loose forward Lopeti Timani has opened up about his fight with teammate Amanaki Mafi in New Zealand last week.
The assault occurred on a night out after the Rebels’ loss to the Highlanders, which denied them a place in the Super Rugby playoffs. Mafi was arrested and charged with assault.
Timani told the Sydney Morning Herald that he was repeatedly bashed into a car and feared for his life at the hands of his childhood friend.
‘I said, “Mate, why are you doing this to me, I thought you were my teammate, I know your family, are you punching me because you’re angry because I said something offensive to your family?”‘ Timani recalled. ‘I thought I was going to die.
‘Naki was just swearing at me in the Tongan rude way. I decided if the car stopped at a red light I would run and try to get back to the hotel.’
Timani admitted that he and Mafi were drinking with Mafi’s relatives, something they were fined for, while they were watching the Sharks take on the Jaguares in Durban.
‘[It was] dumb to be doing that,’ Timani said. ‘Naki got offended because I said something offensive in front of his sister, so he started having a go at me, saying I was saying something rude. We had an argument, I was trying to tell him I was sorry and “I didn’t mean to make you angry or offend anyone”.
‘He started throwing a punch at me … and then started bashing me and knocked me. I was trying to get back on my feet, to get off the ground, and I decided to run, because I felt something was wrong. I got out the door and ran. My face was bleeding and I was crying, so I called my brother, because I didn’t know who to call.’
Timani’s brother called the police who took multiple statements from Timani and charged Mafi with intent to injure. Mafi appeared in court this week and was granted bail on the condition he no longer associates with Timani, who has signed with French Top 14 club La Rochelle.
Timani was assisted by the Rebels doctor and underwent scans in hospital before being cleared of serious injury.
‘I can’t stop thinking about what happened, I wake up and it’s just running through my head,’ Timani added.