Mitchell upbeat despite injuries

2012-04-07 18:13

Do New Zealand coaches love coming to Johannesburg or does Johannesburg love New Zealand coaches?

Either way, they have done well with the Golden Lions and their current coach John Mitchell is no exception.

Under Laurie Mains, the last New Zealander to coach the Johannesburg-based team, they snared the Vodacom Cup and the Currie Cup at the turn of the Millenium.

The next season he took the then Cats Super Rugby team to the Super 12 semifinals, where they lost to the Brumbies.

Times have changed though. The Super Rugby competition now has 15 teams and the unhappy marriage that was the Cats split into the Lions and the Cheetahs.

Mitchell took the Lions to their first Currie Cup since Mains’ tenure, but he acknowledges the gulf that exists between the Currie Cup and the Super Rugby tournaments.

He also admitted that injuries have blighted the team’s chances of going forward.

“Who knows how those games could have gone, but we know we have the ability to win in all our matches,” he told City Press.

“But when you lose five forwards from the Currie Cup team and at least three to four backs, it is like building a new team.”

The Lions have not disgraced themselves in the tournament so far with one win from five games, as they have been through worse periods.

They hold the record for the most consecutive losses by a franchise and just like the Bulls at the turn of the century, went a season without winning.

The Lions battled gamely against the Crusaders, but they eventually went down 23-13.

The result, however, is significant in terms of them remaining in the Super Rugby competition, with the South African Rugby Union yet to find a way to accomodate the Southern Kings.

The Cheetahs, another team who are threatened by Kings’ inclusion, made a bold statement with their 47-38 win over the Hurricanes in Wellington.

Mitchell, who coached the All Blacks to a record 52-16 win against the Springboks at Loftus Versfeld in 2003, recognised the importance of doing well away from home, but said they would deal with it when the time comes.

The Lions won two games from four on their away leg last year, with their victories coming against the Brumbies and the Highlanders.

“At this stage we are not worried about touring because we are only leaving at the end of the month.

“We had success in New Zealand and Australia so we will be looking to do the same.

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