De Klerk denies dissuading Stormers

Lions president Kevin de Klerk says he didn't influence the Stormers’ decision not to appoint John Mitchell as coach.

Although Mitchell emerged as the front runner to replace Eddie Jones and had the backing of director of rugby Gert Smal, WP president Thelo Wakfield and the board were against it, with Robbie Fleck eventually getting the job.

Although Saru president Oregan Hoskins later said that he and De Klerk advised against the appointment of John Mitchell as Stormers coach, De Klerk has refuted this.

‘I never influenced his decision, nor did Oregan Hoskins,’ he told ‘I did not speak to them at all before the incident [of Mitchell losing the Stormers job]. They [the Stormers’ brains trust] took that decision on their own.

'It is naive from outsiders to think that Thelo Wakefield, as president of Western Province, could be influenced by an official from another union. It astounds me that people, who should know better, would think I can pick up a phone and call Thelo and tell him who should coach his team.’

De Klerk suggested the WP board had come to a decision on their own and had not been influenced by him in any way.

‘I only spoke to Thelo Wakefield after the decision was made and told him I support him. I certainly did not close that [Stormers] door for him [Mitchell], he closed it for himself.’

In an interview with Radio Sport, Mitchell – who has now taken up a job as the USA coach – suggested politics had influenced his decision to leave South African rugby and accused Hoskins and De Klerk of having a vendetta against him.

Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

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Craig Lewis