SA rugby should heed Mitchell's parting shot

John Mitchell (Gallo Images)
John Mitchell (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - It may sound like sour grapes, but John Mitchell had a valid point when he fired a parting shot at South African rugby last week.

READ: Why Stormers snubbed Mitchell

READ: Politics in SA rugby made Mitchell leave

Mitchell, a former All Black, Western Force and Golden Lions coach, is set to leave South Africa after accepting the USA head coaching role.

He was interviewed by a New Zealand radio station when he claimed personal vendettas against him were among the reasons for his departure.

But let's forget about the supposed politics that drove Mitchell away, it was instead another rather interesting remark he made which caught the eye of this writer.

Mitchell noted a real flaw in the current South African game, saying: “It is challenging times here (in SA). They are a global model as well, they are professional in title, but I’m not so sure whether they are that (way) in preparation and delivery.

“And somebody needs to show leadership about changing the attacking mindset to create a higher probability of scoring. I see that as the leadership that’s necessary.

“For us as New Zealanders and as coaches, it’s a very easy thing to coach, but here it is far more challenging.

“The Lions have shown that approach over the last six years and it’s starting to show the benefits of changing that mindset.

“So there is an example in front of their faces, but not too many of the other franchises know how to go about it at the moment which is worrying.”

Mitchell is right, inventiveness on attack is lacking in the South African game.

In New Zealand, all clubs, provinces - and the national team - play rugby in a similar way, they are all coached in the same manner, and the end result is a world champion team which plays a brand that appeals to everyone.

The Springboks’ often one-dimensional game style under former coach Heyneke Meyer was all too often reported on in the last four years and South African rugby as a whole should take a look at itself.

A few teams showed attacking promise during last year’s Currie Cup competition, but it should be an holistic process spread throughout South African rugby’s coaching hierarchy from grassroots level.

Getting coaches from all levels on the same wavelength will do wonders for the local game and it’s a task that SARU should pay special attention to.

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