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Mapoe gets Bok call-up ... finally

Mon, 01 Oct 2012 20:32
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Apart from providing cover in the midfield, he can also be used on the wing
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Golden Lions utility back Lionel Mapoe's career stalled almost before it started. On Monday it unexpectedly got an enormous boost.

He was called up to the Springbok squad for the final Test in the Rugby Championship, against New Zealand in Soweto on Saturday.

Mapoe, who first came to the fore as a provincial wing but has excelled as centre this season, is the fifth Lions player to be called up to the national squad.

He joins flyhalf Elton Jantjies, centre Jaco Taute – who both made their Test debuts last Saturday against Australia – along with props Patric Cilliers and CJ van der Linde.

Mapoe's call-up came in the wake of an injury that will rule out World Cup-winning Bok Frans Steyn for the rest of the season.

Steyn will undergo surgery on his injured ankle on Wednesday, to clean out old pieces of bone fragments, and will not play again this year.

The bone fragments were discovered after the Boks' medical team had a number of scans and x-rays done on the midfielder last week.

Mapoe, who started his career with Free State in 2007 and also played for the South African Sevens team, was forced to return to the Cheetahs in 2010 after he attempted to join the Sharks.

He trained in Durban, in breach of his contract, and the Free State High Court ordered him to return to Bloemfontein.

It threatened to bring a premature end to the talented player's career, who refused to play for the Cheetahs over a financial dispute.

However, a compromise was reached in which he was 'sold' to the Lions.

He was injured for most of the 2011 Currie Cup competition, when the Lions claimed the trophy for the first time in 12 years, but this year - after moving from wing to centre - saw he started living up to the promise he showed when he burst onto the scene in Bloemfontein.

It has now earned him a call-up to the senior 15-a-side team, although the 24-year-old may have to wait a while for his debut - as Taute is likely to again partner captain Jean de Villiers in the Bok midfield.

Juan de Jongh is also still ahead of him in the Bok queue, but if Zane Kirchner (hip pointer) is ruled out and Pat Lambie starts in Soweto, Mapoe may find himself on the bench.

Bok coach Heyneke Meyer, wile disappointed that the powerful midfielder, Steyn, has joined his growing injury list, was full of praise for Mapoe.

"Losing Frans [Steyn] is a big blow, as he is one of our most experienced players," Meyer said.

"However, it's better that he gets the ankle sorted out properly as he still has a long rugby career ahead of him and can play many more Tests for South Africa.

"Lionel has been in great form lately and apart from providing cover in the midfield, he can also be used on the wing if necessary."

The withdrawal of flank Jacques Potgieter, who is struggling with an abdominal strain picked up during a Currie Cup match last weekend, has resulted in Blue Bulls teammate Arno Botha getting a call from the Bok coach.

"Jacques could not train last week and we were hoping to get him ready for selection for this week, but he has not responded as well as we had hoped and subsequently it was decided to withdraw him from the squad as he would not be available this weekend," Meyer said.

Four more players did not take part in training in Johannesburg on Monday, as they are all nursing various bumps and bruises from last Saturday's victory over Australia in Pretoria. They are Zane Kirchner (hip pointer), Johan Goosen (bruised heel), Willem Alberts (hip) and Jannie du Plessis (knee).

"Seeing that Willem is also not 100 percent at the moment, we only have three fit loose forwards in the squad and needed someone to provide cover at blindside flank and No 8, which is why Arno is coming to join us. He was part of our Young Guns squad in June as has been in our plans before," said Meyer.

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