The Stormers have won another battle in the protracted ‘war’ with the Lions over the services of prop Brian Mujati, after a ruling on Tuesday went in their favour – a temporary success, but a victory nonetheless.
Jan de Koning writes for Rugby 365 that Mujati, who will go head-to-head with former Lions teammate Heinke van der Merwe when the Cape-Town-based franchise travel to Ellis Park for a must-win Super 14 encounter on Saturday, has been at the centre of an ugly public spat between the two teams since he moved south from Johannesburg at the end of last year.
rugby365.com can reveal that an appeal by the Lions, against an earlier ruling in favour of the Stormers, went in favour of the Stormers on Tuesday.
The South African Rugby Union (SARU) ruled in February that Mujati, who had been lured to Cape Town by new Stormers head coach Rassie Erasmus last year, did not have a valid contract with the Lions at that stage.
The Lions insisted that their contact with the front row forward was valid. They argued that Erasmus – along with Frikkie Erasmus, commercial manager of the Stormers, and the player’s agent Jason Smith – had entered into negotiations with Mujati illegally, because he was still contracted to the Lions.
The Lions’ appeal, against the ruling of advocate Jannie Lubbe, was dismissed on Tuesday.
It was found on Tuesday that appeal officer, Nick Treurnicht, don’t have jurisdiction to hear the Lions’ case.
In Tuesday’s finding it was said that according to law the complainant (the Lions) don’t have the right to appeal.
It means that for now Mujati remains a member of the Stormers squad and can legally play for them against the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday.
It doesn’t mean that the war between the two factions is over.
It was a temporary victory, one battle, in a protracted war that could even end in the high court.
The basis of the Lions’ appeal was that Lubbe erred when he ruled in February that the Lions did not have a valid contract with Mujati and the player was thus a free agent.
This stems from the fact that Mujati, at the time of the negotiations in August last year, did not have a valid work permit – as his study visa had expired.
The Lions maintain Mujati has been playing for the Stormers unlawfully, because he has never been released from his three-year contract with them.
While, for now, Lubbe’s decision made in February stands, the Lions have other options available to them.
If they want further relief in the case they will have to head to the high court, where the court could decide that Erasmus and Smit entered into negotiations with Mujati contrary to regulations.
By implication the court will have to rule that the Lions do in fact have a valid contract with Mujati and if that’s the ruling the Lions and Stormers will have to negotiate a transfer fee. If they can’t agree to a transfer fee, the Lions don’t have to release Mujati and they would be back in the pound seats – effectively forcing the player to return to Johannesburg.
However, that is a long way off, as the Lions are studying the ruling before making a decision on their next course of action.Tweet