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Leo joins Lions

Lionel Mapoe, the player at the centre of a recent tug-of-war between the Sharks and the Cheetahs, has joined the Lions for an undisclosed fee.

The South Africa Sevens star will immediately link up with the Gauteng franchise after a deal was struck with the Free State Rugby Union (FSRU).

Mapoe, 22, has not played rugby since May because of a contractual dispute between the Cheetahs and Sharks, even refusing to report to training in Bloemfontein despite being ordered to do so by a South African court.

But an deal has now been brokered, with new Golden Lions Rugby Union (GLRU) shareholder Robert Gumede, the first black owner of a rugby club, thought to have had a major influence in landing one of the country's most promising young players.

"It is a major coup for us getting a thrilling young player of Lionel's calibre into our squad," Gumede said.

"When we decided to invest in the resurgence of the Lions, we made a commitment to enhance our young team with Springbok quality players."

FSRU president Harold Verster said: "We are relieved that Lionel will finally be back on the rugby field.

"We have concluded a proper transfer agreement between the Cheetahs and the Golden Lions with payment of a transfer fee to Cheetahs.

"We wish Lionel well and we are sure this solution will be to the benefit of all parties involved."

His GLRU counterpart Kevin de Klerk added: "Lionel will form an integral part of our squad that is being built under our coach John Mitchell. We want to pick up next season on the high we ended this season with, with the Golden Lions surprising fans and foes alike with our constructive and winning rugby."