While discarded Golden Lions coach Eugene Eloff spent the last few days in Namibia, clearing his mind and enjoying some much needed R&R, the fallout over his departure continues to reverberate around Johannesburg and further afield.
Eloff took time out time out to chat, exclusively, to rugby365.com about the dramatic events that led to his dismissal and what the future holds for the veteran coach.
In what reads like a spy novel, with a web of deceit and lies, he has suggested that the Golden Lions Rugby Union top management were at times rather economical with the truth.
Eloff, who was adamant that he was disappointed but not bitter about his departure, said he would like to see the top management structures uphold the same “professional” standards they demand of the players on the field.
He said that he would have moved on without fuss if a “properly” conducted audit had found that it was in the best interest of the team and the union for him to be removed from office.
However, the manner in which the audit – if that is indeed what led to his dismissal – was conducted and the findings arrived at, is symptomatic of a ‘disease-riddled’ GLRU.
Describing it as a “cunning and well planned operation” to get rid of him, Eloff spoke of blatant lies and misleading statements by those in power – GLRU President Jannie Ferreira, CEO Manie Reyneke and even World Cup-winning coach Jake White, the man charged with conducting the much-maligned audit.
As a result of the events of the last few weeks and Eloff’s dramatic departure, a powerful group of former Golden Lions/Transvaal players have met at the weekend to form a lobby group to remove Ferreira and Reyneke from office.
A vote of no confidence will be brought against the President and CEO, with calls for their “immediate” departure.
For Eloff that will be too late.
He has already paid the price, but says that due to his “love of the province, the players, supporters and the sponsors”, he owes it to all the people to know what is going on in the inside … and why the union has gone down after Louis Luyt’s departure.
“I just don’t like dishonesty and there was a lot of that in the last week or so,” Eloff told rugby365, adding that he feels he can make a difference wherever he goes.
“I won two [junior] World Cups and in 10 years played in seven finals [at junior and senior level]. In fact SA Rugby are still using some of the systems I put in place [as coach of the national Under-19 team].”
But it is the manner in which those in power went about it to get rid of him that hurts the most.
He described Jake White’s audit as “a joke” and said he will request “a qualified audit to validate his findings that got them to fire me”.
He accused top management of “manipulation” and “lying” to the players, the supporters, the clubs, the media and sponsors.
“The players are leaving [the union] because of top management,” Eloff said.
“When [GLRU President] Jannie Ferreira told the players on the Monday that there’s no sword over my head, he used a very interesting line: ‘People who throw mud, lose ground.’
“I find that very ironic, because a lot of mud has been flung in my direction,” Eloff said.
Amongst the revelations made by Eloff include how White, while Eloff was transporting White back to his hotel, told the Lions coach that he was going to “assist” him.
“He [White] told me has was going to put structures in place for me, he was going to get top players and coaches to strengthen my hand … most of all he said: ‘JUST TRUST ME’.
“And 36 hours later I was fired.”
Eloff also countered a number of accusations levelled by the former Bok coach in a newspaper interview, remarks Eloff feels needs to be challenged to ensure his reputation, worldwide, as a coach is not harmed.
White suggested that the words “rugby” and “structure” didn’t belong in the same sentence at the GLRU.
“That was a very subjective remark and perception,” Eloff countered, adding: “He [White] is the first auditor with a teaching diploma that can take such drastic steps and make such remarks inside 48 hours – without written proof or foundation.”
It was also suggested that Eloff arrived at a “feedback meeting” totally unprepared.
Again Eloff countered White’s remarks by pointing out that it was on the instruction of the GLRU President, Ferreira, that he made no presentation at the meeting.
“I still have not been given a formal opportunity to give any feedback on the Super 14 and in that meeting they mostly told me what they tough was wrong … I was given very little time to speak or say anything,” Eloff said.
According to Eloff White also made disparaging remarks about players and conditioning at a meeting with the team.
“I just took a back seat, because if I had said anything it would have caused unpleasant and unnecessary conflict in front of the team.”
Eloff also dismissed White’s account that there was no proper planning, or proof of planning in place.
“I can show you all my planning for the past 10 years and if Jake asked I could have provided him with all the planning through to the end of the year – including what our fitness and other coaches do,” Eloff said.
“I question his [White's] motives and the accuracy of his information, especially in regards to the audit that resulted in me having been stood down.”
Eloff also pointed to misleading statements by Reyneke and Ferreira during the entire saga and in the immediate aftermath.
He pointed to remarks attributed to Reyneke and team manager Mustapha Boomgaard, in which they suggested a number of players supported the changes and only “some senior players” wanted to strike.
“Al the players stood up and threatened to strike. I phoned Baywatch [captain Cobus Grobbelaar] and told him they should play in the match [against the British and Irish Lions],” a game the Golden Lions subsequently lost 17-74.
Eloff also revealed that a number of senior players had informed him, earlier in the year, that they are planning to leave as a result of the poor management by the top structures at the GLRU.
He also asked why was there no finances available to him to secure the “top class” players that White is now supposedly going to buy.
Other events during the entire 48-hour audit saga that still rankles with Eloff include Ferreira giving “feedback” that centres mostly on his character and mistakes he made.
He also pointed out that when White attended a training session on the Monday, as part of his “audit” White spent most of time on his phone.
“After training Jake said it was unorganised and made disparaging remarks,” Eloff said, adding: “He did not even know what the goals of the session were and was mostly on his phone.”
On the same day Ferreira told the team that Eloff is not going to get fired and after that White also uttered the infamous ‘JUST TRUST ME’ sentences.
White also insisted that the Lions should have trained on the Wednesday, the players’ official day off, which was cause for much unhappiness.
As it turned out, Eloff was axed that morning and stand-in coach Hans Coetzee took charge of training – but not before another meeting and a stand-off with the players.
Eloff also revealed that at one stage Reyneke had told the players he, Eloff, was going to “resign” after the match against the British and Irish Lions anyway, which Eloff described as a blatant lie.
“If the GLRU President and CEO can, on the basis of an amateur audit, decided within 36 hours that I must go, then something is amiss,” Eloff said, adding that he does have offers from abroad and local teams on his desk.
“I will take a few days to clear my head, but I’m not leaving rugby,” Eloff said.
“I still have a strong passion for the game.
“There are some options on the table, both local and abroad, despite everything that was said about me.”Tweet