Johannesburg - Golden Lions coach John Mitchell says filling Coca-Cola Park from corner to corner, in his team’s 42-16 Currie Cup final victory over the Sharks was a dream come true.
Gallery: Lions win Currie Cup
“When I came here 16 months ago a lot of my friends said to me what the hell are you doing,” Mitchell said.
“But I’ve always liked a challenge and I always had a dream to fill the corners of Ellis Park (Coca-Cola Park) and it is quite ironic that my first game in South Africa was against Transvaal in the old days.”
Mitchell said the contrast between 1993 when he played at a full Ellis Park and when he first arrived at the union in a capacity as coach, stayed with him.
“The program is pretty simple and accountable and a program where men work hard anything is possible,” Mitchell said.
The Lions were firmly in the driving seat by the start of the second half with the Johannesburg-based side leading the clash 22-9.
The match, however, could have swung the other way when the Sharks' Willem Alberts scored a controversial try.
Alberts seemed to have knocked the ball on but after reverting to assistant referee Christie du Preez, referee Mark Lawrence awarded the try.
Mitchell said his charges had shown immense composure and maturity at this crucial point in the match to win their first final at home since 1950.
“I guess when that yellow card occurred, on our goal line for long periods of time and then the unfortunate knock-on where they were awarded a try the former Lions side may have not handled that situation very well,” said Mitchell.
“I guess it is just a sign we’re prepared to except that there will be momentum swings and it is important not to get frustrated by that.”
He said that at no stage did he feel the side were damaged by the situation and praised his troops for hanging tough.
The former All Black mentor was brimming with pride at the post-match press conference and explained the affection he had for the Currie Cup.
“This is the oldest cup in the world. I looked at it the other day.
When I saw it and thought I can’t look at it too long because I’m not allowed to look at it until we’ve earned it,” Mitchell said.
Victorious captain Josh Strauss, who left the field in the 28th minute with a concussion, said he knew his men would pull it through as he was watching the game from the sideline.
“I’m still very young but I can be proud of all these guys and they’ve been here longer than me (referring to Wikus van Heerden, Doppies la Grange, Cobus Grobbelaar and Franco van der Merwe),” said Strauss.
“It is such a great achievement, for everyone in that cloakroom there, we’ve built so hard and come such a long way since last year.
“I mean just to see this side win the Currie Cup, when no one expected us to, is unbelievable.”
Strauss also decided to shave off his much talked about beard after the victory.