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Mutiny in Jo'Burg? Leaked audio from inside a split Lions camp

By Jan De Koning
Tackle bags before the United Rugby Championship match between Connacht and Emirates Lions at The Sportsground in Galway. (Photo By Seb Daly/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The Lions’ boardroom saga has taken an intriguing twist, with a suggestion that the coaching staff, en masse, approach company Chief Executive Officer Rudolf Straeuli with their grievances.

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This development follows the expose by @rugby365com last month of a major disconnect between players and upper management.

The Lions’ back-to-back United Rugby Championship victories – beating Glasgow Warriors (35-24) and the Bulls (29-25) – suggested the Lions Rugby Company’s internal drama had been put to bed.

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However, it merely papered over the cracks and last weekend’s humbling 28-44 loss to Western Province at Ellis Park in the opening round of the Currie Cup reopened the already festering wounds in the camp.

It resulted in a frank coaches meeting – including senior coaches – in which the possibility of a confrontation with the CEO was raised.

@rugby365com obtained an audio recording of the coaches’ meeting in which a number of issues were raised.

As was the theme of our initial expose, the bulk of the indignation was directed at the CEO, Straeuli, and Tracy van Ginkel, the manager of Contracts and Operations at the Lions Rugby Company.

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While the meeting suggests there was finally a ‘united front’ in their ranks, the possibility of a ‘divide and conquer’ approach by Straeuli – by offering individual coaches ‘sweeteners’ – was also raised.

“We have to look each other in the eye, and say: ‘You can’t throw me to the wolves’,” one very concerned coach said.

Another added: “We need to know that every single guy is safe. Then we can do it.”

Another issue raised in the coaches’ meeting was the anger and internal ranting, which included ‘cussing’ in a fractured panel at odds with each other.

The meeting resolved that a clear list of grievances and solutions to the problems must be presented to Straeuli.

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Amongst their biggest grouses is Straeuli’s ongoing “interference” and involvement in training schedules, game plans and selection.

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The CEO’s demeanour has not just created an extremely tense atmosphere in the Lions’ inner sanctum, but there is little to no cohesion between junior and senior coaches.

There is also a total lack of respect for senior management.

Apart from the mistrust of Straeuli, there is also a growing malcontent towards Van Ginkel in the coaching and players’ ranks.

Renewed calls for her removal as manager of Contracts and Operations have gone out, with more claims of ‘inappropriate’ behaviour.

Phrases such as “incompetent, rude, unapproachable” is aired when speaking about Van Ginkel. Questions about her behaviour around the dressing rooms have also been aired more vigorously.

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