Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Johannesburg - The Golden Lions hope to have their investigation into the allegations surrounding coach John Mitchell wrapped up by the end of the week.
According to the SuperSport website
, Mitchell is set to then be presented with a charge sheet of the allegations against him, whereby he can defend himself against said charges.
The Lions took the extraordinary decision to suspend Mitchell last Friday after a group of players complained about him to president Kevin de Klerk.
De Klerk suspended Mitchell pending the outcome of the investigation into the allegations, which is ostensibly about how Mitchell treated the players.
While no indication has been given just how serious the charges are, the Lions finally confirmed Mitchell’s suspension in a statement on Monday.
“The Golden Lions Rugby Union confirmed this morning that John Mitchell, head coach of the Lions team, has been suspended to provide the Union with the opportunity to investigate certain allegations,” the statement read.
“Lions president, Kevin de Klerk said, “we are fortunate to be in a position where we have two experienced assistant coaches (Johan Ackermann and Carlos Spencer) who are able to step in during this period”.
“Where necessary, and for the time being, Johan Ackermann (Lions forwards coach), in conjunction with the management team, will make the necessary team related and technical decisions.”
Mitchell said the matter was now in the hands of his attorneys and he would only respond through them when they believed the time was right.
Mitchell is known as a disciplinarian coach, but there were few complaints when the Lions won the Absa Currie Cup last year under his leadership.
De Klerk also told Talk Radio 702’s John Robbie on Monday that the complaints were not criminal of nature, but about how Mitchell handled players.
“Unfortunately we came into the possession of some allegations that were made about John Mitchell. I convened an urgent Board meeting and subsequently decided, due to the seriousness of the allegations, to suspend John Mitchell with immediate effect,” De Klerk told Radio 702.
“I wouldn't say it was criminal allegations but certain things around the handling of players and the business of the Lions as well.”
De Klerk said this was certainly not something the Lions had done on a whim.
“No ways would this be a knee jerk reaction. We understand players are emotional and people work hard, but there are limits as well. There are certain lines that don’t get crossed in every aspect of life,” De Klerk added.
He went on to say Mitchell would be presented the allegations at a hearing and would have an opportunity to answer them.
But De Klerk then went on trying to downplay Mitchell’s role in resurrecting the franchise from bottom of the Super Rugby to Currie Cup champions.
“There is a machine behind the whole operation that wins the league, it's not just one single person. We’re not playing it down, but in the team dynamic it is a machine that contributes. There are administrative and assistant staff, not to forget the players who are the shop window of the union.”