By ALTUS MOMBERG
Details of a bitter feud between Cats' captain Rassie Erasmus and coach Laurie Mains - at first denied by both men - have now been revealed.
Springbok flanker Erasmus, who captained the Cats in the Super 12, and Mains, who coached them, fell out as long ago as last season, according to the new revelations.
Allegations of the feud led to vehement denials, especially by Mains, who went on South African radio to repudiate a Cape Town rugby reporter for writing about them.
Mains yesterday admitted that there had been problems in the Cats camp, but said he did not want to take a hard line because he had come to the end of his coaching stint in South Africa.
He left last week to take up a post as Otago's NPC coach.
According to Erasmus, Mains objected to his body language at practice sessions, saying it undermined his authority.
Erasmus said jealousy was at the heart of Mains' problems with him.
Erasmus told the Bloemfontein newspaper Volksblad that he was prepared to return home from New Zealand and Australia, while the Cats were on the road in the Super 12.
Black players in the team said they would return with him if he did so, said Erasmus, who accused Mains of having had a poor relationships with the black players.
After the Cats had played the Reds in Brisbane, senior players met to discuss the rift and gave their support to Erasmus. It led to a compromise and Erasmus stayed with the team.
Erasmus says that before the Cats' penultimate match, against the Bulls, Mains attempted to get the team to choose between the captain and the coach, but this did not happen.
Erasmus says that Mains' belief in a single game plan led to tension with the coach.
"Mains did not study our opponents," Erasmus told the Volksblad. "Before we played against the Auckland Blues, he said we should be wary of dangermen Matua Parkinson and Carlos Spencer.
"He did not even know that both were injured."
Erasmus says he suggested to Mains that he ask Eric Sauls (who coached the SA under-21 team) and Butch James about Spencer's young replacement, James Arlidge.
Mains refused, according to Erasmus, and said he would telephone his friends in New Zealand to find out about the young first five-eighths.
Erasmus quickly issued a press statement yesterday, saying he was glad that the Super 12 was over and that he was focused on working with Springboks' coach Harry Viljoen and performing well for South Africa.
"I have not worked with Harry before, but from what I have heard (and the bit we have been exposed to in the past 24 hours) gives me every reason to believe we can get things right and close whatever gap there is between ourselves and the likes of Australia and England," Erasmus said.
The Mains/Erasmus saga is set to continue when a book on the coach hits the shelves later this year.
- INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS (SOUTH AFRICA)
By ALTUS MOMBERG