Long, Drawn Out and Hard!

Of course you knew that I was talking about the John Mitchell suspension saga…..

What a turnaround in such a short space of time! I clearly recall receiving an e-mail around the end of last year from someone within the GLRU in response to one of my queries and in this message it was boldly stated – “What Mitchell wants, Mitchell gets.”

The statement may have been made more as a flippant comment as opposed to a declaration of policy, but it certainly highlighted the status that John Mitchell had earned. That was how much confidence the Union had in its Head Coach and such was the influence that the man had within the Union and across all echelons of the organisation.

Pressure is a funny thing, it brings out the shinning best and the despicable worst in people. There can be no doubt that every single person within the GLRU is under immense pressure. Financial pressure; injury concerns pressure; performance pressure; results pressure and of course the mother of them all – the risk of being relegated from Super Rugby.

There had to be a breaking point and if this did not happen on the field through a turnaround in results, then it had to happen behind the scenes. First Doppies left, then Killian and now it’s Paul Willemse. Future plans must have been shattered and difficult questions must have been asked. I cannot comprehend how the burden of responsibility must have weighed on Mitchells shoulders. And when the players were not able to bring back the results – for whatever reason – be it poor execution or poor game plan, the guy must have snapped, flipped his lid and blew a gasket. He must have made Sergeant Major Luys (who was the most terrifying non commission officer who I served under during my National Service) look like Earl Rose…

There are some actions in life that can never be undone no matter how many times you say sorry. There were 2 such life changing events that took place, the first was Mitchell’s last action he did that prompted the players to report him and the second was the players reporting him.

The reports that are out at the moment have confirmed that the labour dispute between Mitchell and the GLRU will be ongoing for a protracted period of time, but the outcome is crystal clear to me – Mitchell can never coach the Lions again. The relationship is now too scarred and beyond being able to patch up with a band aid. Mitchell has to go and if the GLRU can’t fire him they will have to somehow negotiate a settlement that will not cripple their already fragile financial position.

In contrast and to me it is worth mentioning the difference in how Kevin de Klerk has handled the pressure. He alone has had to shoulder more pressure, for the most amount of time than anybody else – no question about that. But yet he has always remained pragmatic, diplomatic and composed. Most of all he has stuck with the Union under the most unbearable and uncertain circumstances and remains one of the only shining lights and glimmers of hope that I look towards.

13 comments to Long, Drawn Out and Hard!

  • Lion4ever

    LV, still no news as to what he was supposed to have done that made the players so moedeloos?

    Samajoor Luys could not have been as bad as Samajoor ” Killer” Smit that was our company sergeant major during basics. I had 1 small run in with him and I still get flashbacks of his face when I think of army sergeant majors.

  • Kat

    Now that Army is not what it used to be – not even close – I wonder what the likes of Luys and Smit are up to these days? No amount of medication will prevent the strokes and heart attacks.

  • Kat

    These days I actually feel sad for those old Samajoors. To deal with so much anger your whole life and instil fear all the time … shame … what a kak life.

  • mufasa62

    Well written article as always LV, well done and well spoken my friend. You are in my opinion a man that can write for any newspaper as a journalist any time.

    I do agree with you about Kevin his behavior was and is always of professional standard and it is also very true that he has immense pressure on his shoulders at the moment.

    All eyes are now on him to see if he can be the savior of this union and it’s future. I must admit that although he is handling everything in a very professional manner he must still show that he is in the same class as Oom Louis Luyt, because according to me that is the only standard that will save this Union and it’s future and nothing less.

    If we do stay in supper rugby, Kevin and his team of board members will have a huge responsibility to secure enough sponsors to help them to secure contracts with our best players and to make sure we appoint a great coach for the future who can help to take us to new levels in super rugby as i do not see us getting another change to play supper rugby again if we screw up our changes next year.

    We can say what we want but only a big sponsor with huge financial backing will help us achieve this and i hope he and the board members will be able to achieve this.

    May the grace of GOD be with him and his board members to help them achieve this, which i believe can and will happen.

    It is my believe that the Lions are not done yet, or as they say we may have lost some battles, but the war is not over yet!!!!

  • Den

    Nice article,LV(as always). I concur fully with you & the other guys about Kevin.I had the pleasure of meeting him some years ago with other teammates and legends (Syd Nomis,Pote Fourie & Hempas Rademeyer),and he is ultra-passionate about Tvl/LIONS union and rugby. I however tend to disagree with Mufasa62 slightly.Kevin is possibly/probably not as ‘direct’ as Oom L.L, but he is certainly not a walkover and is a tough businessman and one of our very best ex-Bokke.I believe that he handles situations with aplomb and diplomacy — very,very necessary in this new era of professional rugby.He also gives the impression that he is tenacious and well up to the challenge ahead! I must say though,I am really sorry about the way things have gone sour with John Mitchell.I had(and still have)a belief that he is one of the very best coaches in world rugby.Boardroom politics is(and always has been)a chronic-disease at E.Park.Even Oom L.L was to some degree responsible for some of it — e.g.Demise of Francois Pienaar, etc.

  • emiel

    Mitchel seems to like taking unfancied underperforming teams and making them competitive. Problem is the S15 is very demanding on player resources and if you have a series of injuries to your most senior and talented players, it’s like fixing a aircraft in flight. This happended to both the Force and the Lions.

  • emiel

    By the way, what happended to Ruan Botha? Dont tell me the Lions have lost him as well.

  • Lions-Admirer

    Emiel he is playing in the warmup game with the U21s

    Lions Under 21: Adriaan Nel, Luqmaan Ismail, J. Viljoen, Robert de Bruyn, Janus Jonker, Marais Schmidt, Nico Kruger, Fabian Booysen, Johan van der Hoogt Stephan de Wit, Ruan Botha, Ruan Venter, Van Zyl Botha, Mark Pretorius Henri Boshoff. Reserves: Rikus van Niekerk, Wiseman Kamanga, Paul Willemse, Heinie Marcus, Vian van der Watt, Bradley Moolman, Andries Oosthuizen, Siyanda Yaka, Devon Matinus.

    U19s’ are also playing earlier. Team is up on official website.

  • emiel

    Thanks L-A

  • LV

    Thanks guys much appreciated.

    L4E – I suspect that this incident is sub judece as no one is talking about it. John Mitchell has been particularly quiet about the matter and it will be most interesting to hear his side when “The time is right.”

    There were ledgends about samajoor Luys where there was an “Allowance” for 2 people who could die during basic training before there will be any inquest… Not sure how true that was but even the officers kept a respectful distance from him.

    I remember during an inspection he came up to me and lifted my R4 rifle up with one hand and held it up by the edge of the barrel to see how clean it was (I promise you not many people can hold a rifle up by the barrel with 1 hand and lift it up parallel to the ground up to their faces).

    There was some oil that came off and got onto his hand.

    He put the rifle down and came up really close to me (I was standing at attention). He took his finger and wrote the letter “L” (presumably for Luys) on my forehead with the gun oil and then growled into my face.

    That was it, but when he left I was perspiring so hard that I nearly had to change my shirt…..

  • Lion4ever

    LV, I was in Kimberley and Killer Smit had the reputation of drilling his son law to death when he was in Grahamstown. I had had an oppie by a PTI the night before. We were practicing for a parade, and I happened to stamp my foot about a millisecond too slow, and my R1 was not in the perfect position. Killer came and corrected my position and told me that if I mess up again, it would be me and him. I didn’t care how sore my muscles were, but man, did I drill like I had the “brasso” feeling where the sun don’t shine. I was a nervous wreck for about a week after that. Small piggy like blue eyes and wax tipped moustache. I still get the creeps when I think of that incident.

  • The Saint

    Please, everything changes, players are lost, coaches cycled, and still the faith in De Klerk is kept…when will you open your eyes, GLRU top management is the same, De Klerk is the common denominator in all of the Lions’ failures…

  • Last time you said it was Manie.

    Make up your mind.

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