Vodacom Super Rugby
Pressure remains on Mitchell
Johannesburg – Lions coach John Mitchell realises that he cannot make the union’s team a force by himself.
The New Zealander was delighted with the team’s second victory of the year when they beat the Brumbies
in Canberra on Saturday.
Even so, there is a lot of pressure on him and with the Lions having been criticised for many seasons he has not been spared the rod either.
Saturday’s victory was a timely one. Prior to that, the criticism had become worse as the Lions were beginning to resemble the hapless team that Dick Muir coached last year.
Mitchell said that there was mediocrity throughout the union when he joined the Golden Lions Rugby Union (GLRU) last season.
After helping the Currie Cup team to improve last year, the Super Rugby tournament has proved a baptism of fire for his “new” Lions side.
Rumours that the GLRU and Mitchell are at odds have been denied and the coach is not willing to be the scapegoat for the team’s poor performances.
“I am a competitive person and above all want to win. But I understand how the GLRU works. While I’m responsible for the team’s performances, I am only one role player in a professional organisation,” Mitchell said last week.
“There has to be unity. I play a role, but won’t take the blame for where the Lions find themselves as an organisation.”
Mitchell recently aimed a swipe at the GLRU’s new investors when he said it was time for them to stop talking and to do more to lure quality players to the union.
It looked as if the pressure on Mitchell was beginning to tell. He admitted that a head coach always experiences pressure. The chances were always very slim that the Lions would be contenders in the Super Rugby tournament, but progress was important.
However, the team looked rudderless in their recent humiliation against the Cheetahs.
Saturday’s victory against the Brumbies will at least bring some relief for Mitchell.
The Lions’ performances in the last four games of the tournament will now be of great interest.