The Golden Lions Rugby Union have suspended their head coach John Mitchell.
This follows the revelation that a group of players have presented a ‘list of grievances’ to GLRU President Kevin de Klerk as a result of the manner in which Mitchell treats players.
De Klerk, in an exclusive interview with this website, confirmed that Mitchell has been suspended with immediate affect.
“The nature of the [players'] complaints is so serious that we have suspended him [Mitchell], pending further investigation,” De Klerk said.
De Klerk would not elaborate on the nature of the players’ complaints, saying that the decision was “not taken lightly”.
Mitchell’s assistants, Carlos Spencer and Johan Ackermann, will take charge of the team when the Super Rugby competition resumes next week.
The Lions’ three remaining fixtures this season will see them take on the Stormers at Newlands, the Rebels in Johannesburg and the Bulls in Pretoria.
Despite taking the Lions to their first Currie Cup title in 12 years, when they beat a star-studded Sharks team in last year’s Final in Johannesburg, the players feel aggrieved at Mitchell’s behaviour.
The Lions mentor recently told this website that he wants to see out his contract, which runs to the end of 2013, with the Johannesburg-based franchise.
However, reports of a player revolt were confirmed on Friday.
The former All Black coach faced a similar revolt before his departure from the Western Force in Perth, where he was ‘removed’ from the day-to-day coaching for a short while and later allowed to continue under ‘strict supervision’ from his assistants and senior players.
Mitchell, despite his 82 percent success rate and taking the All Blacks to the 2003 World Cup semifinal, was axed as New Zealand’s national.
Later reports emerged of player discontent.
Apart from the apparent fall-out with the coach, there is also great uncertainty among players over the future of the union in Super Rugby.
The Lions, the lowest ranked South African team and sitting 14th on the global table of 15 teams, remain the ‘front-runners’ to be eliminated if the Southern Kings enter Super Rugby in 2013.
And Lions captain Joshua Strauss, speaking to this website in an exclusive interview, admitted that some players were “talking to their agents”.