The boss of South African rugby has admitted he blocked the appointment of former All Black coach John Mitchell as Eddie Jones' replacement at the Stormers Super Rugby franchise.
South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins says he and Golden Lions Super Rugby franchise president Kevin de Klerk advised against the appointment of Mitchell as Stormers coach.
Mitchell was Western Province's director of rugby Gert Smal's preferred choice to replace Jones who quit the role to take up the England national coaching position in the wake of Stuart Lancaster's post-World Cup sacking.
But Western Province's president Thelo Wakefield and his board were against the appointment which has gone to the union's under 21s coach and former Springbok Robbie Fleck.
However, South African media revealed at the weekend that both Saru and the Golden Lions union told the Western Province union, who manage the Cape Town-based Stormers franchise, not to hire Mitchell.
"The Golden Lions had a tough parting with Mitchell," Hoskins told the Sunday Times. "I was still president of Saru and I was intimately involved in his arbitration hearing."
"When Western Province considered Mitchell for the Stormers coaching job, Kevin de Klerk and I spoke to Theo and said that we strongly feel that they shouldn't consider him, given the experience we had at the Lions.
"If you appoint a coach for four years and run into problems in the first year, you end up having to pay out a lot of money.
"My concern is a financial one, and I think it is very sad that Western Province are coming out as the bad guys here."
Several high-profile South African commentators criticised Hoskins and SARU for their role in blocking a Mitchell appointment.
South African Rugby Magazine wrote that Hoskins was referring to complaints laid against Mitchell by certain Lions players in 2012. The magazine pointed out that the former Waikato and All Black No 8 was later cleared of all 28 charges, with the Lions having to make a substantial payout to him. It also claimed that as the Lions were struggling financially at the time, SARU had to provide financial assistance.
Another leading writer, Gavin Rich, who is also Mitchell's biographer, asserted in the Weekend Argus newspaper that Western Province had "failed to do their homework" on him and had they done their job properly, would have realised the Lions' claims didn't stack up.
Rich wrote that Wakefield's claim that it was "poor people skills" that sunk Mitchell's chances of becoming Stormers coach couldn't pass without critical analysis and comment.
"In the interests of thoroughness, and particularly seeing that the director of rugby Gert Smal was backing Mitchell so strongly, surely the base line competency requirement should be that you try and get both sides of the story?" Rich wrote.
"For a start, the talk of Mitchell's supposed transgressions at the Lions needs to include the significant detail that none of the 28 charges that they brought against him was able to stick. The judge awarded the case to Mitchell hands down, and the Lions had to make a substantial payout to him.
"Perhaps that payout has greater significance for what is happening now than many people think. I understand it wasn't just the Lions that exerted pressure on Wakefield and his henchmen not to employ Mitchell, but SARU officials too. We know the Lions were broke at the time, so who would have footed the bill for much of that payout?"
Rich claimed that while Mitchell has been called to account for his hard-headed ways in previous coaching roles, including when he coached the All Blacks, he had "invested a considerable amount in a life coach and that people change and undergo personal growth".
"Mitchell has a reputation for being a disciplinarian, but if you speak to him about it you will find that he has a different attitude after three and a half years of soul searching. And anyway, the situation he was greeted with at the Lions demanded that he be a disciplinarian," he wrote.