Favourite Waikato son John Mitchell says it is no done deal that his Lions team will drop out of the Super Rugby competition if they finish as the bottom South African franchise at the end of this season.
The South African Rugby Union has painted itself into a corner by promising a place in next year's competition to the Eastern Province Kings. With Sanzar refusing to allow a sixth South African team into the three-conference competition, one team will have to drop out.
"I don't really make those decisions but we've been around 120 years now, so I don't see us moving on too quickly," said Mitchell, who confirmed he had a contract option through until the end of next year and was happy in Johannesburg.
"We are last year's Currie Cup champions and there's certainly a lot of grey area [in this]."
Mitchell conceded a return to the Cats, who were a combination of the Lions and Cheetahs 1998-2006, was possible if a strong leader emerged to drive such an arrangement.
The Lions have been hit by injuries and are in 14th position out of 15 teams with eight losses on the trot since beating the Cheetahs in the season opener. "We had a magnificent Currie Cup – winning for the first time in 61 years – but we lost five of our forward pack and [numbers] nine and 10 in the first five weeks of the competition," Mitchell said. "To lose that many players when we don't really have a lot of depth as we are rebuilding ... means, while we are enduring tough times in terms of results, ultimately there will be another cycle of success with these youngsters. We are very inexperienced and certainly it hasn't gone to plan ... but those are the cards we've been dealt and we just have to deal with it."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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