The Melbourne Rebels’ player Amanaki Mafi is in New Zealand Police custody and will face charges following an alleged assault on teammate Lopeti Timani.
The alleged assault occurred on a night out after the Rebels suffered a heartbreaking 43-37 loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday.
That defeat — coupled with the Sharks’ 20-10 win over the Jaguares in Durban on Sunday (AEST) — meant the Rebels missed out on qualifying for the finals for the first time.
A NZ Police spokeswoman told foxsports.com.au on Sunday that a “man has been charged with injuring with intent to injure following an alleged assault in South Dunedin last night.
“The man is due to appear in the Dunedin District Court on the 16th July 2018.
“The alleged victim… received moderate injuries following the incident.
“He did not require hospitalisation.
“The pair were known to each other.
“As the matter is now before the court Police are not in a position to comment further.”
The Rebels and Rugby Australia later issued a joint statement on Sunday night.
“Rugby Australia and the Melbourne Rebels are aware of an incident involving Rebels players Amanaki Mafi and Lopeti Timani in Dunedin overnight,” the statement read.
“Both players remain in New Zealand with Mafi currently in Police custody following an altercation between the two players.
“Rugby Australia undertsands that no other players were involved in the incident.
“As it is a Police matter, Rugby Australia, the Melbourne Rebels and the Rugby Union Players Association are unable to make further comment at this time.”
Added a gutted Rebels chief executive Baden Stephenson: “I am bitterly disappointed that an incident has occurred at the end of a season where we have taken pride in our on and off field behaviour.
“We will respect the process and won’t be making further comments until all investigations have taken place.”
Mafi and Timani are both off contract with the Rebels at the end of this season and Mafi — a Japan international — was expected to move to the Sunwolves for 2019.
Mafi is an outstanding No 8 who was named Australia’s Super Rugby player of the season in 2017.
He was immense for tournament surprise packet Japan in the 2015 Rugby World Cup and was a major part of coach Jamie Joseph’s plans for the next World Cup on home soil next year.
But it is not the first off field drama for Mafi, who parted ways with English Premiership club Bath suddenly in 2016.
The Bath Chronicle reported that Mafi had an altercation with the club’s head of sports medicine.
The Rebels, who finished ninth of 15 teams in 2018, have lined up Brumbies powerhouse Isi Naisarani as a direct replacement for Mafi next season.
Loose forward/lock Timani, meanwhile, has played 12 Tests for the Wallabies but has not featured for the national team this season and has not been a regular in the Rebels’ starting lineup.
He is set to take up a new contract in France with La Rochelle.