PERTH — Lions coach John Mitchell has criticised South African rugby officials over the uncertainty surrounding his team’s Super Rugby tournament future.
Mitchell, a former New Zealand forward and coach and the Perth-based Force’s coach for their first six seasons in Super Rugby, is facing the prospect of his Lions dropping out of the competition next season in favour of the Southern Kings.
The South African Rugby Union (Saru) promised the Kings a place in the competition in 2013, but SAnzar will not expand to accommodate six South African teams until 2015 at the earliest, which means an existing franchise must drop out.
The Lions’ 17-11 loss to the Force in Perth on Saturday left them with just one win in 12 matches this season.
“I just think it’s disgusting … in some ways it’s professional blackmail, and there’s no clarity in this situation,” Mitchell said following the match.
“I do actually feel for our group — the players and staff. I guess it’s on everyone’s subconscious because people have families, partners and wives to put bread on the table for.”
The Lions have returned to Johannesburg after a four-week match tour that included losses to the Chiefs, Blues, Reds and the Force.
Mitchell is hoping to receive some answers on what could happen next season.
“The Kings are certainly in the competition, but we are living in the unknown and clearly this competition hasn’t gone to plan for us so it has been difficult for the boys to not allow it to get to them,” Mitchell said.
“We clearly want to know what’s going on.”