Mitchell has a chance to regain little-known Hawera trophy

2010-08-05 00:00

THE little-known Hawera Trophy will be up for grabs when the Sharks meet the Lions in the Currie Cup match at King’s Park on Saturday evening.

The trophy has a long history, but little is known about it because the competition is between two New Zealand-born coaches — and close friends — rather than a host of rival teams.

The 45-year-old John Plumtree, who is the Sharks coach, and John Mitchell, a year older and in charge of the Lions in the Currie Cup, were both born in the small town of Hawera in Taranaki, New Zealand.

“We have coached teams against each other in New Zealand, the UK and now the Super 14,” said Plumtree. “And so we have our trophy and it is very real. We are good mates, but that just adds to the rivalry.”

Plumtree is the current holder of the Cup after the Sharks narrowly beat Mitchell’s Western Force in this year’s Super 14 in Durban.

Mitchell’s chance to regain the trophy came sooner than expected after the former All Black coach agreed to take over the Lions from assistant Bok coach Dick Muir for the Currie Cup season.

Plumtree said yesterday that he is expecting a tough battle on Saturday.

“The Lions have been steadily improving under Mitch. He’s brought in some structures and different beliefs on how the game should be played. He’s enjoyed the opportunity and the players have enjoyed him. It’s been a happy marriage.”

Plumtree was impressed with the Lions’ showing against the Blue Bulls.

“The Lions played a lot of positive rugby against the Bulls and they shared the try count two all. They showed intent and they were physical.

“It is a style Mitch wants them to play and it is something we’re also trying to work on. If the skill levels are high, we could see some great rugby on Saturday.”

History favours the Sharks, who have won their last four games, two at Ellis Park, against the Lions.

Meanwhile, Mitchell was relieved that his tough flank Trevor Hall escaped suspension this week after being cited for dangerous play in the Bulls game.

The 31-year-old Hall, who has been playing in France for the past four years, was cited after pushing his hand into the face of Bulls lock Flip van der Merwe, but the judicial officer said the available video evidence was not conclusive.

The Lions will travel to Durban with an unchanged 22-man squad, with Mitchell saying he wanted continuity and the committed showing in the 18-32 defeat against the Bulls made selection easy.

The Sharks team will be named today and Saturday’s match kicks off at 5 pm.

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