The Lions and their supporters might feel that their relegation from Super Rugby was unfair, and as much as I agree that it was a stupid decision given that it benefits nobody, a very big part of that decision has to do with the Lions themselves and their performances.
The Lions might also feel that some players should have shown the union more loyalty in tougher times, but that type of respect is earned.
Some of the current administrators might also believe that they are stuck with problems created by their predecessors, but you are either fit for a position to fix and manage a business or organisation or you walk away.
The Lions rugby union has had more lows than Vanilla Ice’s singing career and for me to list all of them would turn this column into a novel, but I can only again shake my head at the latest development from the union with regards to the John Mitchell saga.
Suspended a few months ago on charges of misconduct apparently raised by the union’s players, Mitchell and the Lions administration have been locked in an arbitration case where it was announced yesterday by Mitchell’s representative team that the former New Zealand coach was found not guilty.
It was quoted in various papers that Mitchell was found not guilty on all charges and that he apparently wants his old job back as head coach at the union. The Lions union was quick to deny these statements with one of their own on the website Rugby365, where they claimed the verdict of the case was not even sent to Mitchell’s team yet and that they are still busy studying the verdict. Late yesterday they released a statement of their own saying that they first want to discuss the outcome of the case with Mitchell before they will make a joint statement.
Whatever the outcome of this case or discussion might be, this is following an all too familiar trend for a union that has moved from one crisis to the next in the last 5 years.
I don’t even have to research some of the issues of the last 5 or so years that made headlines at the union. Remember the coup-like attempt to oust the then administration leadership from the union by current president Kevin de Klerk, the involvement of the now defunct Jake White’s Winning Ways that saw the end of Loffie Eloff (who remains bitter to this day), their forwards coach being suspended on accusations of racism, arbitration cases against other unions for players leaving the union, the failed partnership with Robert Gumede and the GUMA group now claiming the union is bankrupt, their relegation from Super Rugby and losing every single game in their Super Rugby season of 2010 (winning only 6 of 45 games played since 2010), the John Mitchell saga, and so the list goes on…
Forget the decision to relegate them from Super Rugby, everything considered, we should be surprised they stayed in the competition until now! Just how can one union get it so wrong for such an extended period of time?
It would be unfair and disingenuous for me to suggest or point out where exactly I believe the problem lies, but surely Kevin should have identified this in his time there now and identified ways, even small steps, to eradicate this cancer that is eating away at almost 100 years of rugby history of a once proud union?
Understand, this is not a column intended to point fingers at any specific individuals at the union, as a supporter of the game of rugby and a fan that has witnessed and enjoyed many great moments at Ellis Park and rivalries between the Lions and other unions, I am bitterly disappointed and frustrated to see the world’s richest club not even 15 years ago disintegrate into a pile of rubble.
I am also afraid the Lions have just about used up all of their 9-cat lives and that the decisions they make in the next 6 months will either see the union rise from the ashes, or be erased forever.
Come on Kevin, sort this shit out, give your fans and every single supporter of the game in South Africa something to be proud of again.