Cape Town - Golden Lions Rugby Union president Kevin de Klerk has denied he influenced the Stormers’ decision not to appoint John Mitchell as coach.
Mitchell, a former All Blacks, Western Force and Golden Lions coach, accused De Klerk and SARU president Oregan Hoskins of conspiring against him when he was approached by the Stormers for the vacant head coaching job.
The Stormers had initially appointed Eddie Jones as their coach, but were then forced to look for a new mentor when Jones left for the England role.
WP’s Director of Rugby, Gert Smal, was keen to appoint Mitchell as Stormers coach, but the union eventually appointed former backline coach Robbie Fleck as interim coach.
Mitchell’s departures from the Force and Lions were shrouded in controversy, with stories plentiful of how unhappy team members were at his coaching and man-management methods.
But in an interview with New Zealand’s Radio Sport, Mitchell said he was not at fault.
“At the end of the day I've never been charged with any of the allegations,” said Mitchell.
“It's perception only. I've had to deal with a fair bit of politics in my time, but I'm going into an environment where there is stability above me.
“The Lions situation was orchestrated. I was basically cleared of all 28 allegations and clearly Oregan Hoskins and Kevin de Klerk have still got a vendetta against me here in South Africa. So, my expertise isn't warranted."
However, De Klerk says Mitchell dug his own grave.
"He (Mitchell) can say what he wants, the facts speak for themselves," De Klerk told Rugby365.
"The players revolted against him. I only spoke to Thelo Wakefield (WP president) after the decision was made and told him I support him.
"I never influenced his decision, nor did Oregan Hoskins. I did not speak to them at all before the incident (of Mitchell missing out on the Stormers job).
"They (WP Rugby) took that decision on their own.
"It is naive from outsiders to think that Thelo Wakefield, as president of Western Province, could be influenced by an official from another union.”
Speaking on Mitchell's verbal broadside, De Klerk said: "I certainly did not close that (Stormers) door for him, he closed it for himself.
"He had issues in New Zealand, he had issues in Perth and he had issues with us (the Lions). He even took a turn in England.
"He must go do his thing there (in America) and see how well he does."