THE gathering of alumni, players and supporters at the “Breakfast with Mitch” get-together with former All Blacks head coach John Mitchell at the varsity rugby stadium on the Pietermaritzburg campus yesterday were pleasantly surprised. The man who is now at the helm of the UKZN Impi has gathered an exciting support staff around him for the 2014 Varsity Shield campaign. “It’s amazing when you ask for help who comes forward,” Mitchell told The Witness. “Butch James is going to be the backline and kicking coach. Butch wants to put something back into Maritzburg rugby, which has given him a lot,” Mitchell said of the PMB-born and educated Rugby World Cup 2007-winning flyhalf for the Springboks. Seasoned, highly regarded Ryno Combrinck of Michaelhouse will be taking the forwards. Ryan Strudwick of Maritzburg College will look after re-starts, which Mitchell said has been a problem for the Impi and an area where he wants to see growth. Meanwhile Dylan Campbell of Pelham Primary School is going to be the skills and attack coach. That’s the Varsity Shield group. Shawn van Rensburg (the Voortrekker coach) will be the head of forwards coaching for all of UKZN Rugby Club’s teams and league coaches in order to bolster what has been an Achilles heel for the student sides against older and significantly bigger club forward packs. Resource coaches like Van Rensburg will add value to the Varsity teams. “During the league season I will play a resource roll as well … so it’s about maximising and pooling our resources in order to try and create an optimal environment, and also create a process under the rugby committee where we will have a match committee that will meet to discuss injury problems for example and help each other’s teams out to give them the best possible opportunity to succeed,” said Mitchell. “There has been a lot of student interest but it is dependent on qualification through academic admissions and if all goes to plan we will have an exciting group of players with the objective to get into the Varsity Cup and retain those students over three years.” There will be two big training camps in the first and second weeks of December, one in PMB, the other in Durban. A squad of about 40 players will be trimmed down to about 28 to 30 before Mitchell names the final Impi squad for the Varsity Shield season a week before the first match at the end of January.