Wakefield feels ‘vindicated’ after halting Mitchell appointment

Thelo Wakefield (Gallo Images)
Thelo Wakefield (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - WP Rugby president Thelo Wakefield admits he stepped in when there were calls to appoint New Zealander John Mitchell as coach.

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In late 2015, the union's director of rugby Gert Smal was eager to sign Mitchell as Stormers coach following the abrupt resignation of Eddie Jones, who accepted a role as England coach.

Wakefield appeared on SuperSport's Phaka rugby chat show on Tuesday where he explained his decision to step in and halt the Mitchell appointment.

While stressing that he did not normally get involved in player contracting and was not directly involved in the appointment of coaches, the WP president said he made an exception in the Mitchell case.

"That was the only time... because of the history the man had. I just couldn't see (him) at WP Rugby. We come from a very diverse province, the Western Cape. We have to transform. You bring in a foreigner... he plays the game with whoever he wants to select,” Wakefield said.

The Phaka programme was aired on the day Mitchell was confirmed as England’s new defence coach, leaving his role as Bulls coach after only one season in charge.

At the time, there were also reports that one of Mitchell’s former employers, the Golden Lions, as well as SA Rugby, had warned WP not to appoint Mitchell, who had left the Lions amid several complaints laid against him by players.

Given Mitchell’s abrupt departure at the Bulls, Wakefield said he felt " vindicated” by WP's decision to not appoint him.

"After a year he goes away... and here we (would) sit, with the repair work to do. I believe in home-grown coaches, I believe in growing your own timber - (current Stormers coach) Robbie Fleck is our own timber."

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