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Rugby | Currie Cup

Mitchell to assist in Currie Cup

New Vodacom Bulls Director of coaching John Mitchell arrived at Loftus Versfeld on Monday and dived head first into fixing the problems besetting the Pretoria franchise from day one.

Mitchell, who was brought in after the Bulls poor season where they failed to reach the playoffs, returned from New Zealand on Sunday to join the team ahead of the Currie Cup season, and immediately started to help with the coaching.

Mitchell explained that he felt it “wasn’t ideal” for him to be sitting in an office as Director of Rugby but would rather do things “hands on”, and will thus be assisting Nollis Marais in the Currie Cup season and taking charge of the Bulls attack, with Marais still being head coach.

The former All Black coach said he had already started to communicate with the Bulls on realigning their attack and they had implemented some suggestions in the last few weeks of Super Rugby as well, but the real test would now come as they slowly look to change their shape ahead of next year’s Southern Hemisphere competition.

“I just flew in last night and we have had that day together before I left for the US and that was a really valuable day just meeting everyone. Finding out information and sharing as well. We shared a little bit of dropbox video as well, to align the coaches to the way I think, and the new methodology that we are adopting. It was really important for them to try some of that stuff, which they did, and which is good.

“We kinda got started. Now that I’m in, I’ll be playing an assistant coaching role in the Currie Cup in the area of attack – mainly attack and then looking at getting total alignment to the methodology. Its more a lot of questions, identifying what they have been doing and seeing where we can progress each and every day. The next couple of weeks will be busy days,” Mitchell said.

The Bulls scored five tries in their final league encounter against the DHL Stormers, but lost the game when their opponents scored six. Mitchell believes they are heading in the right direction though.

“Defensively we’ve started but it is very much a risk and reward thing. We may have to cop a few things as we learn and become totally connected in that area. Attacking-wise we have intent but I still think we can improve there as well. Our strong mind and our resilience, we have to grow in that area, but the methodology will eventually pay off.”

Mitchell believes what the Bulls now need is confidence, and they need to slowly give players opportunities to develop and grow ahead of Super Rugby next year.

“There is no direct correlation between Currie Cup and Super Rugby but there is a starting point. The club is open to intervention so for me to sit out and watch from up above, like a director of rugby, is probably not ideal. I’m better off to be operation as well as high-level and that will allow me to work with people. As you know trust is built through time with relationships as well and that is important.

“Getting started on a lot of the little things will be beneficial for us to go into Super Rugby but more importantly the club has to get confidence through winning. There is a lot of injuries as well and that will present a lot of younger guys an opportunity. But I think Currie Cup has become very much a younger competition since the time I was last in it.

“Some of the size of the young guys is impressive. There will be some guys getting opportunities and I’m certain they will be waiting for it and they will probably seize it as well, which is good.”

The Bulls will head into this weekend’s Currie Cup opener in Kimberley still getting to know their new head of rugby and understanding what he wants from them.

But if Mitchell’s track record is anything to go by, and his determination on day one points the way forward, the Bulls will benefit from his experience and expertise.


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