Former South African Sevens captain Jonathan Mokuena has become the first player to publicly speak out against suspended Lions coach John Mitchell.
In the same week that the former All Black mentor, Mitchell, demanded to be reinstatement as Lions head coach, Mokuena said that will be the "biggest mistake" in the history of South African rugby.
Mokuena, who played in almost 30 tournaments on the IRB Sevens World Series and captained South Africa for a season, went on to call the Kiwi a "demon".
In an exclusive interview with this website, Mokuena claimed that Johan Ackermann, who was caretaker coach during the Currie Cup season while Mitchell remained under suspension, has more potential as a head coach of the Golden Lions Rugby Union.
Mitchell's management, the John Fordham Group, this week expressed anger that the 48-year-old Kiwi was still suspended despite some misconduct charges having reportedly been withdrawn.
However, the GLRU are still withholding details of the protracted arbitration hearing, until such time as they have had a chance to speak to Mitchell.
This resulted in calls from some in the public domain for Mitchell's reinstatement and an outcry against the players.
However, Mokuena responded in kind - first on the social network Twitter and then in an interview with this website.
Mokuena said Mitchell was very disrespectful to the players and treated them like animals.
"Johan Ackermann is a great person and he knows how to work with adults," the former Bok Sevens skipper said, when asked why he rated Ackermann above Mitchell.
"He [Ackermann] shows a lot of respect for the players - that is why the team played the way they did. Unfortunately they lost in the final minute [of the Currie Cup semifinal to eventual champions Western Province], but they could so easily have won that game."
Asked about a comment on Twitter, Mokuena admitted he felt Mitchell showed them no respect.
"We [the players] are humans, not animals," the player told this website, adding: "We are adults. You don't curse and swear adults who are married and already have children - that is not how you treat people."
Although Mokuena left the Lions before their successful Currie Cup campaign in 2011, after having joined them from Griquas in 2010, he confirmed that he had experienced the same unpleasantness that resulted in misconduct charges being laid against Mitchell.
"I wasn't part of the current complaints against him," Mokuena told this website, adding: "By then I had already returned to Griquas.
"The environment for me just wasn't right," he said of his departure before the 2011 Currie Cup season.
"Obviously he didn't rate me as a player, but I experienced this all during my time at the Lions."
Mokuena also had other unsavoury things to say about Mitchell on the social network, Twitter.
"That will be the biggest mistake in the history of SA rugby if you allow that demon back into the lions....," he said, when @LionsRugby_23 suggested that Mitchell should be given his job back.
@dawie207 suggested Mitchell is one of the best coaches the Lions ever had. He felt that while Ackermann is also a good coach, Mitchell has more potential.
"I give you one day with that man!.......always easy to give opinion when you don't know what's happening in the inner circle," Mokuena said in response.
Asked by another of his followers if the coach is not supposed to be tough, Mokuena replied: "All coaches in sa is tough! But being disrespectfull and be-littling players is a different story."
In response to another follower, who said the Lions' only trophy in 12 years, the 2011 Currie Cup competition, came under Mitchell, Mokuena said: "To tell you the truth players weren't happy even at that stage....they just bite the bullet for each other."
To @Buckyboy7 he said: "obv you've neva played pro rugby dude!! All coaches in sa is tough...but as a player you want atleast to be treated with respect."
And in response to @kooslab he said: "johan built a family again, mitchell just build a bunce of robots....and it wasn't a good enviroment to be in."
He admitted to @dawie207 Mitchell knows he's rugby, but added: "got no peoples skills.......we humans, not animals."
Mitchell, through his management, said this week that he had turned down a full-time role with Sale Sharks in the English Premiership in order to get his job back in South Africa.
And while it appears there may be some settlement on the cards, Mokuena's public outburst has certainly shed some light on what it is that went wrong in Johannesburg.
By Jan de Koning