Mitchell changed the Lions’ mindset

2011-11-05 14:12

Golden Lions coach John Mitchell says that hard work and a change of mindset was what allowed the his team to win their first Currie Cup since 1999.

The former All Blacks and Western Force mentor took over the team in June last year, on what was initially a short-term contract that would last for the duration of last year’s Currie Cup.

At the time, the Joburg team was firmly entrenched as the also-rans of South African rugby. But, according to Mitchell, work ethic and self-belief was all that was missing from the union.

“There was a total lack of belief in the whole organisation. You can’t live in hope in this elite level of rugby,” said Mitchell.

“Unfortunately, when you have a culture of losing, people accept mediocrity and start to make decision around mediocrity.

“We work hard and we enjoy ourselves. We do not tolerate people that are not prepared to work hard and characters that let you down. You have to be able to trust someone at the end of the day.”

Mitchell’s style of coaching did not immediately have a noticeable impact on the Lions side during last year’s Currie Cup, and the team finished in fifth place on the table after a mediocre season.

However, despite the team’s poor results, Mitchell decided to make his stay in Joburg permanent. The former Waikato loose-forward says the prospect of restoring the team to their former glory was what convinced him to take charge of the team.

“There was great opportunity to renew a province that wasn’t as professional as it could be, and the fact that all that needed was for me to ship in some good coaching and development,” said Mitchell.

“I had a few challenges after leaving the All Blacks, like starting at a new club (The Western Force) in a state that didn’t really have a rugby presence and was dominated by AFL. I could have easily gone to some big-named clubs in Europe but I decide to take on the harder challenges.”

Mitchell has overcome the challenge of restoring the Lions to the top of domestic rugby, but his next hurdle, ensuring his team has a successful Super Rugby season, will be his toughest since taking control of the team.

When asked about his team’s Super Rugby prospects, Mitchell said it was “the furthest thing from his mind” and that he would be taking a break over the next few weeks.

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