Mitchell: Long way to go

2011-06-12 15:51

Johannesburg - Although three victories in the competition and a 30-30 draw against the Sharks in Johannesburg on Saturday will be viewed as a great improvement on last year's winless season, Lions coach John Mitchell has made it clear that the hard work has just begun.

"We've got a very long way to go as an organisation," Mitchell said after the Lions' final match of their 2011 Super Rugby campaign.

"We are still very much a soft culture; we look to please rather than to strive to be the best.

"In saying that, we got away as a group, redirected and set our own goals, unified and just got on with it."

The Lions mentor now wants the union's management to follow suit.

"The challenge is for the people above us to become unified and give us the ability to become the best and support the method," said Mitchell.

"We need that stability, we need that leadership. People need to start leading and when we start leading, and we all start doing it together, who knows what we can achieve."

Mitchell's inexperienced squad produced another impressive performance against the Sharks, one of the few sides still in the hunt for a place in the playoffs.

After racing to a 30-9 lead, the hosts looked certain to record their first home win in more than two years, but a few key moments allowed the Sharks back into the match.

The first was the yellow card flyhalf Butch James received for a dangerous tackle.

The second - and this one had Mitchell's blood boiling - involved a run that Sharks eighthman Ryan Kankowski made from a turnover.

Kankowski's breakaway from inside his own 22 not only broke the Lions' momentum, but also brought the Sharks within striking distance of an important try.

Mitchell said the decision made by the touch judge was "average for this level" as replays indicated that Kankowski had crossed the touch line en route to the oposition's half of the field.

"The yellow card was also a cause [for losing the healthy lead], but you expect that when a player touches the line it is out," he said.

Looking back at what might have been, Mitchell said he was proud of the character his side showed against a Sharks forwards pack loaded with Springboks.

"We ended on the better side physically tonight and that shows that we can do it.

"The guys played from the heart tonight which is pleasing."

Mitchell said his squad had made a "huge step up" in their mental approach to the game.

"If you think that at the beginning of the season there were 11-odd boys who had never played Super Rugby, to now having actually experienced a campaign.

"I thing their ability to stay tight and to deal with the tough times are good signs."


  • kurtvs - 2011-06-12 16:13

    Go John Mitchell. I like what I have seen so far and it is really heart warming if you look at all the players of colour that you are giving opportunity without any prejudice. This I am sure part of the New Zealand culture. If you continue in this way I am sure you will win over the masses and get some decent support back into Coca Cola Park.

  • WPBEFONK - 2011-06-12 16:14

    Sharks by 15+

      Frikkie - 2011-06-12 17:01

      WPGEKROK Cheethas met 25+

      Kudubul - 2011-06-12 17:31

      go lick youre wounds!

  • Benny66 - 2011-06-12 16:59

    Well done JM and the Lions. There has been a notable improvement in the intensity with which the Lions have lately been playing - even the games that they lost. Although I've never really cared much for Butch James, even when he played for the Sharks, because of his dirty playing habits, he definitely made a difference to the way the Lions performed. Hope he does not get to play for the Boks - we have an over supply of excellent flyhalves that do not give away yellow cards!

  • rugby_guru - 2011-06-12 17:05

    Good rugby.. however you too got our blood boiling with your dirty players .

  • BardofAvon - 2011-06-12 17:36

    Crying shame Janties kicked the ball into touch with 8 minutes to go and his team in the lead. The Bulls would have rolling mauled until the bell. Next time.

  • Carl Muller - 2011-06-12 18:20

    Heineke Meyer took 4 years to build the Bulls. Good luck forward ... and hard work..... Very good start, let us see you improve more next year........ Bulls forever.

  • Bandleader - 2011-06-12 18:57

    Solid comments from a committed man. Have to wonder how his bosses are going to respond to being publicly criticised, though. Like Nick Mallett, John Mitchell might find that the childish egoes of higher-ups can get in the way of progress. Here's hoping they see reason. The Lions need a Louis Luyt attitude to get this thing right. Really hope to see them get back to the top - it's been way too long.

  • Skiballas - 2011-06-12 19:21

    Let me defend Butch James, although he deserted my team years ago and is now playing in red. I believe Butch is not a dirty player! He is however, a player who only gives 150%, and it is more his enthusiasm that gets him into trouble than any intention to hurt someone. Hell, imagine if Spiesw had that enthusiasm. I wold rather see Spies get binned every now and again instead of him playing touch rugby on the field. Read the few comments that John Smith made in his book about Butch the youngster, and you will learn he was the one guy who had to fight to get into professional rugby, unlike the schoolboy stars that had a ticket to the top (ie get a provincial contract, a bursary to study etc etc). Long story short, I have alot of adminiration for Butch.

  • Ace Ventura - 2011-06-13 06:54

    Go Cheetahs!!!

  • Claude - 2011-06-13 08:17

    No team can afford a player like Butch James he just makes too many bad tackles and the referees are watching for them. He does not learn and if he goes to the RWC one bad tackle will see him off the field - can any selector risk that? Their are plenty of excellent alternatives.

  • TG - 2011-06-13 08:58

    I would like to sincerely thank John Mitchell for what he has achieved with the Lions in his first season as our (Super Rugby) coach. It's been a hard time for us Lions supporters and it seems that we are on our way back as a team that could be reckoned with. There was moments of sheer brilliance in Saturday's game - the move that lead to the try of Jano Vermaak is a case in point. A well planned and executed move that had me jumping up and down! Although Butch got a yellow, I'll still pick him at flyhalf. He added value and direction to our backline. His tendency to tackle on the high side does cost us, but I'll oversee this indiscretion and play him again! You are a class coach Mr Mitchell! We are extremely lucky to have you! And you sir has made it possible for me to once again say out loud that I support the Lions!! I can't wait for the Currie Cup to start!

  • MB1810 - 2011-06-13 14:13

    I think John Mitchell did a fantastic job with the Lions this season. I can only wonder how different their season could have been, had they won one or two of those really close games at the start of the season.

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