The Sharks have terminated their contract with Tongan World Cup star Epi Taione who is serving a six-week sentence for head-butting.
Brian van Zyl, the Sharks CEO, told The Witness on Thursday that Taione, who had signed for the Super 14 season and arrived to rave reviews following his showing in the Rugby World Cup, was on his way to London where he is hoping to seal a contract with a top English club.
Van Zyl said the discussions between Taione and the Sharks to end his contract were “amicable.”
“There was little point in him sitting around in Durban and serving out his suspension. His Sharks contract, in the end, did not cost us a great deal of money. We were paying him on a pro rata basis and he arrived late and left early.”
Indeed, the powerfully-built, 123kg Taione, who could play either at loose forward or centre, saw only about 25 minutes of Super 14 rugby spread over two games – against the Reds and the Hurricanes.
He arrived in Durban over a month late – once his commitments to Japanese club Sanyo Wild Knights were completed – and came off the bench in making his Super 14 debut against the Reds in Durban on March 29.
A week later and his Super 14 season was history as he was red-carded after head-butting a Hurricane in the final quarter of their drawn game.
He returned to Durban as the Sharks unsuccessfully appealed his six-week sentence, a suspension which effectively ruled him out until the play-off stages of the Super 14.
“We are very sorry to see him go,” said Van Zyl. “He was popular with his Sharks team-mates and he really enjoyed Durban. He made it clear that if he is needed again once his suspension is over (on May 17), he would be happy to return.”
Van Zyl, who represented Taione in his appeal, said that the the 29-year-old Tongan deserved his suspension “but we thought six weeks was too harsh and we did everything possible to have the sentence reduced.”
“He has paid heavily for his brief moment of madness. There is no no doubt that he is a talented player and a powerful ball-carrier with much to offer and perhaps we can get him back to Durban in the future.”
Van Zyl said that it now seemed unlikely that veteran Johan Ackermann, who was approached by coach Dick Muir as a possible replacement for the injured Steven Sykes, would be recalled to the Sharks squad unless there were further injuries in the second-row.
“Sykes is back in Durban and his injury is nothing more serious than an ankle strain. He will be ready for the Cheetahs game (on May 10) when the Sharks return from their tour.”
John Bishop reporting for iol.co.za.Tweet