Lions stress as players were in the dark about coach's illness
The Lions were unaware their head coach Swys de Bruin may have had a stress-related illness when they offered him a two-year contract extension earlier this year.
De Bruin will tomorrow return to the helm of the Lions' Super Rugby campaign after a medical time-out over the past few weeks due to stress.
While De Bruin's employers were sympathetic when he took ill while on tour in Australasia last month, they were unaware of his condition.
"We treated it like a normal absence due to illness," said Lions Company chairman and main shareholder Altmann Allers. "He provided us with the necessary medical documentation. He has been cleared to start working from next week. It will be business as usual," said Allers, who added he could not divulge details of De Bruin's condition.
ROBUST DEBATE ENCOURAGED
The abrupt turn in De Bruin's health last month came as a shock. It also took the Lions' boardroom by surprise that the coach's illness necessitated an early return home.
When asked whether the Lions, at the time of renegotiating De Bruin's contract earlier this year, were aware of their coach's stress-related illness, Allers said: "No, we weren't at all, I think it happened all of a sudden. We asked around about this because it is new territory for us.
"Apparently this is not out of the ordinary. It happened and he received treatment for it. He reacted well to treatment and he's been cleared to resume work," said Allers.
There had, however, been suggestions, that De Bruin's condition was partly due to alleged interference from Allers.
Allers is a strong-willed businessman who is occasionally brusque, while the more emotional De Bruin sees and interprets rugby in an almost romantic way.Allers said that it was easy to level the accusation that there is discord in the Lions camp. He denied that he and De Bruin had clashed heads, but is a strong proponent of healthy debate."There is absolutely no truth that there had been a clash of heads between the two of us on a personal level."I see Swys as a very valuable employee. We all have jobs to do. If you don't debate things, and at times even disagree, then there really is no point in doing this."In fact, often those debates are initiated by coaches because the life of a head coach can be a lonely one. If he can't soundboard his thoughts with people like Rudolf (Straeuli, Lions' CE) or myself, is he going to talk to his golf buddies?"Ultimately, all of us want the same thing ... for the Lions to be the best."He was clear De Bruin's medical time-out will in no way undermine the coach's standing at the franchise. "Not at all. We'll go with what the professionals tell us. It doesn't influence his position at the Lions or any of our stakeholders."