Lions president Kevin de Klerk says his conversations with the Stormers took place 'before or after' the decision not to appoint John Mitchell as coach, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Although Mitchell originally emerged as the front-runner to replace Eddie Jones, the Stormers ultimately opted against that appointment, and in December confirmed that U21 coach Robbie Fleck would instead serve as interim coach.
There have since appeared to be some murky circumstances around that decision-making process, with Saru president Oregan Hoskins telling the Sunday Times that he and De Klerk had advised WPRFU president Thelo Wakefield against the appointment of Mitchell.
However, this stood in contrast to De Klerk’s assertion earlier this week that he had not influenced the Stormers’ decision.
When approached by SARugbymag.co.za to provide some clarity on the disparity, De Klerk suggested the timing of the conversation with the Stormers was besides the point.
‘I’m not going to delve into what Regan might have said, for me there is no conflict, sometimes things just come out differently and that’s it. When I spoke to Thelo, whether that be before or after the process, it was just to say that I support the decision they made.’
Mitchell has since taken up a post as coach of the USA, and in a recent interview with Radio Sport suggested the decision had been made due to vendettas against him in South African rugby.
‘For me, the matter of John Mitchell is now a closed book,’ De Klerk said. ‘I’m not willing to discuss it any further. I feel like the whole matter [around his consideration for the Stormers job] has been blown out of proportion. He’s been getting so much publicity around this and I just don’t think it’s worth it. Our experiences with him at the Lions are well known and I’m not going into it again. He’s now going overseas and will face various new challenges, and that’s that as far as I’m concerned.’
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