Mitchell still dealing with after-effects of Joburg break-in

John Mitchell (Getty Images)
John Mitchell (Getty Images)

Cape Town - England defence coach John Mitchell says a traumatic episode in South Africa in 2010 has helped shape him into the person he is today.

Mitchell spoke to England Rugby's official website ahead of Saturday's Test between England and South Africa at Twickenham when he recalled the horrific incident while he was coaching the Lions.

A break-in at his home in Johannesburg resulted in him being stabbed twice and tied up.

“It was a hell of a shock to the system,” says Mitchell, who was woken by two intruders. “It was basically fight or flight. I was like ’man, I’m in trouble here. I could possibly lose my life’.

“Out of that came a fighting attitude. I thought, ’I’m not ready to give in yet’, though nor was I equipped with the tools to deal with the situation. I was very, very lucky.”

Mitchell is still dealing with the after-effects.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve entirely got my deep sleep back. I’m always aware of noises. Believe me, it put life into perspective very quickly.”

The former All Blacks coach added that the incident was en eye-opener.

“You know how life works... There’s maybe one or two things you’re not too happy with. Then you go through something like that. 

“It sharpened me up big time and allowed me to make some critical decisions in my life on what I wanted to achieve and how I wanted to go about it.

“I’d fallen into the outcome bubble. After New Zealand’s exit from the 2003 World Cup I was very hard on myself. I’d lost perspective because I was wanting to prove a point.”

After leaving the Lions in 2012, Mitchell spent time as English club Sale Sharks' director of rugby, before returning to South Africa to coach the University of KwaZulu-Natal for two seasons (2013-2014).

Mitchell became United States head coach in 2017, before joining the Bulls last year as their executive of rugby.

His tenure at the Bulls ended premature when England came calling.

“I said I was never again going to allow winning, losing or drawing to determine who I am. I like to think I’ve stayed true to that.”

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