A South African Super Rugby coach says being forced to play on Good Friday led to a mental breakdown.

Swys de Bruin, coach of the Johannesburg-based Lions and a Springboks assistant, quit a tour in April just before the Lions were due to play the Chiefs in Hamilton.

De Bruin told You magazine that he was tormented by the Good Friday assignment and also the indecent assault conviction against the team's defence coach Joey Mongalo, after an incident in Sydney last year.

The 59-year-old de Bruin said his hotel bed sheets were drenched after he broke out in a cold sweat, and his wife Marilize ordered him home.

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"The Lions are a Christian team and I found it incredibly difficult to play on Good Friday," said de Bruin, who led the Lions into last year's final against the Crusaders.

"Many of our supporters criticised us for that too. I felt I should've taken a stand, but I didn't.

"I started getting a hollow feeling in my stomach and thought 'today I'm saying goodbye to the world'. I called my wife and told her I felt as if I were drowning, but didn't know why. She said I should come home immediately."

The Lions went on to score a surprise win over the Chiefs under the guidance of assistant coach Ivan van Rooyen

At the time, it was reported de Bruin had returned home because of a "serious medical condition".

A South African media outlet claimed the team's poor form had led to a "nervous condition". De Bruin had also denied a claim he was in conflict with senior players before the Chiefs game.

One Lions fan said on Facebook "It takes a real man to admit when all is not well! Hats off to our coach. Glad to see him back."

But another said: "He knew when about that fixture long ago."

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There was also a complaint about de Swys describing the Lions as a Christian team.

"It also has those of other (beliefs) and no belief," the fan reckoned.