Mitchell wants ‘unknown students’ to make a name for themselves

2013-10-18 00:00

SOUTH African rugby has a moral responsibility to ensure that players aren’t thrown into the deep end and that they are ready to face the challenges that the game throws at them.

This was the view of former All Blacks coach John Mitchell, who was recently appointed director of coaching for Varsity Shield side the UKZN Impi.

The New Zealander, who famously coached the Lions to Currie Cup victory against the Sharks in 2011, said: “I come from a country where you have to produce the goods.

“Transformation is about development, and to capture the right players that are ready to perform at a certain level,” he told The Witness yesterday.

“That is the challenge … Regardless of race, we’ve seen many players chucked to the wolves and unable to handle it,” he said, adding that each different player was different culturally and emotionally, and had to be treated in a way from which they would benefit.

“There is no generic way to achieve results.”

Mitchell added that he hadn’t yet had a chance to connect with his players, but wanted to also give “unknown students” the chance to make a name for themselves with the Impi.

“You have your players that are rated, but I also want to capture the unknown student who is also strong academically. We’ll have trials in late November, where we hope to capture some of these guys,” he said.

Mitchell was excited by the challenge of helping the Impi achieve Varsity Cup status, saying that is what helped him decide to return to amateur level.

The Pietermaritzburg-based Impi improved vastly in this year’s Shield, narrowly missing out on the final by one point, after finishing bottom with eight losses in as many games in 2012.

“Our goal is to get into the Varsity Cup, and since September 1, I’ve met a lot of the incumbent coaches, and I’ve gone around the university to see how UKZN fitted into the rugby family.”

After years of coaching at the top level, including Super Rugby with the Chiefs, Western Force and the Lions, Mitchell is happy to be involved in the amateur side of the game.

“It’s exciting. It’s nice and refreshing to be back at this level,” he said, adding, however, that he hadn’t given up on coaching at the highest level again.

“Durban is my home now.

“I’m at a space in my life where I am ready to impart my knowledge to others. UKZN is my home now. I saw it as a really good fit, along with my work on SuperSport.”

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