Boshoff backs Lions for title
Johannesburg - The discipline and structure introduced by coach John Mitchell has groomed the Golden Lions into a championship winning team.
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Those were the views shared by Leopards coach Leon Boshoff, who played for the Lions when they last won the Currie Cup in 1999, ahead of Saturday's final between the Sharks and the Lions at Ellis Park.
While Boshoff is no longer involved at the Lions, he has witnessed both the highs and lows at the union and even suffered at the hands of Mitchell's marching troops this season.
Boshoff was the Lions forwards coach under Eugene Eloff when they were beaten 20-18 by the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein in the 2007 final.
He was also part of the victorious side that beat favourites Natal (as the Sharks were known then) 32-9 in Durban 12 years ago.
The similarities between that final and Saturday's game are uncanny, not only because the same two sides are playing, but also because of the New Zealand flavour in the coaching staff.
Former All Blacks coach Laurie Mains was in charge of a resurgent Lions team brimming with inexperienced players in 1999.
Coincidentally, this season's Lions outfit also have a Kiwi coach at the helm, in Mitchell, with few international stars.
Boshoff said on Tuesday both Mains and Mitchell instilled a culture of discipline in their teams, which was the key to their success.
"Laurie Mains put a lot of emphasis on discipline," Boshoff said.
"If you didn't do your work he [Mains] would kick you out of the team.
"From what I've heard John is similar and he asked the players from the beginning whether they wanted to play or not.
"That is the recipe to success, and I definitely think the Lions will win the match.
"They play structured rugby and you can see John Mitchell's hand in it.
"You now have 22 players who bought into his philosophy and plays for the coach."
Boshoff said Mains and Mitchell were similar in their views that teams did not need superstars to be successful, but rather that teams were more important than individuals.
Mitchell has on many occasions this season bemoaned individualism in his squad while preaching the importance of team work.
Boshoff said the collective effort made by the players was evident in the way the Lions had played this year.
The Lions were a well-balanced team with few weaknesses, he said, which made planning for games against them a tough task.
"It was difficult to prepare for matches against them as their players did exactly what was expected of them," Boshoff said.
"The moment you make a mistake the other team will capitalise on it, and that is the thing Mitchell is very good with. They keep possession really well."
Boshoff believed the Lions would take the spoils if they retained possession and ultimately negated the Sharks' strong ball carrying forwards.
He added that the side with the right attitude, and the team that wanted it the most, would lift the title.
"John articulates that it is not about technique or game plans, but whether the players are willing to put their bodies on the line to win it," Boshoff said.