Controversial ex-Rebels star returns to Super Rugby despite assault charges
The Japanese franchise announced their acquisition of the 29-year-old on their social media channels earlier this week, although the length of the deal was not disclosed.
— ??????/SUNWOLVES (@sunwolves) March 10, 2019
The move comes as legal proceedings in New Zealand have been delayed following an incident last July where Mafi was charged with assaulting then-teammate Lopeti Timani in Dunedin after their season-ending defeat to the Highlanders.
Both players were consequently fined upwards of A$15,000 and released from their contracts with the Rebels, with Timani instead departing to France to join La Rochelle in the Top 14, while Mafi – who pleaded not guilty – returned to the Japanese Top League with NTT Communications Shining Arcs.
The 22-test loose forward was initially barred from all team activities upon his arrival back at the Japanese club, but was made eligible to play in November after releasing a letter of apology to the team, where he explained the incident and outlined his intentions to regain the trust of all those involved, including fans.
His return to top-level rugby continued last week when he was named in a World Cup training squad by Japan head coach Jamie Joseph.
With a reputation as an explosive ball carrier, Mafi was named Australian Super Rugby Player of the Year in 2017 in his debut campaign with the Rebels following a string of outstanding showings with ball in hand, which saw him finish the season with third-most carries (196), eighth-most offloads (24), and 10th for metres gained (990) in the competition.
He backed that up with another sensational display for the Melbourne-based club last year, where he was first for ball carries (253) and fourth for metres gained (1345).
Mafi joins a Sunwolves side that has just returned to Tokyo off the back of their successful tour to New Zealand, where they claimed their first-ever win outside of Japan, beating the Chiefs 30-15 in Hamilton.
The Tony Brown-coached franchise followed that up with a narrow 28-20 loss at the hands of an emotionally-charged Blues side, and are now set to face the Reds at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium this weekend, where Mafi could make his debut for the club.
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