Mitchell: No prizes for 2nd
Johannesburg – “No, I’m not satisfied. There are no prizes for second place.”
Finally, a Lions coach that refuses to just accept defeats by offering excuses about a building process, lack of experience or other factors.
John Mitchell’s Lions nearly shook the Bulls with a fightback in the second half that almost spurred them to a famous Vodacom Super Rugby victory. The Bulls won the Jukskei Derby 24-20 at Coca-Cola Park.
When Mitchell was asked about the positives of his team’s performance, it was as if he was indignant.
“I’m not interested in coming second. We will have to learn our lessons fast. If we want to be the best in the country and in our conference, we have to win the close games. We let this one slip. I’m not interested in people praising one another because they came close to winning,” said Mitchell.
It was clear from the fightback that the Lions have been transformed into a side that believes mediocrity is for the birds. That is why there will be some straight talk about the issue of individualism, which also featured in Mitchell’s half-time team-talk.
It’s no surprise that the two youngest players were guilty of it in the first half. They are flyhalf Elton Jantjies and fullback Jaco Taute.
Taute took a heavy blow to the face and was replaced by James Kamana after 27 minutes.
Jantjies took his admonishment by Mitchell to heart and was part of a team effort that had the Bulls gasping for air with the kind of high-tempo running rugby that the Lions like to play.
“The plan was always to stretch the Bulls (on defence). But some of our players chose not to do that in the first half,” said Mitchell.
“The individuals did what they wanted to and that really cost us. It’s clear that we have the answer when we stick to the plan.”
Part of the plan is to hold onto the ball at all cost and not to give away possession with pointless kicks. When the Lions used possession as they had planned in the second half, they looked a very exciting team.
Kamana, wing Michael Killian and centre Waylon Murray were suddenly inspired on attack.