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Rugby | Currie Cup

Mitchell focused on future, not semi

Vodacom Blue Bulls coach John Mitchell may be relishing the chance of underdog status ahead of Saturday’s Currie Cup semifinal against the log-topping Cell C Sharks, but he certainly isn’t letting on.

Mitchell was coy with the playoff talk, opting rather for the processes mantra and how the Bulls were rather looking to the future, rather than immediate results. Given his competitiveness and history as coach, it is unlikely that he won’t be going all out to make the Currie Cup final by upsetting the top team.

Mitchell did vow though that his charges would “continue fighting” for every point, much like he has drummed into them since taking over from Nollis Marais mid-season. And while he has focussed more on next year’s Super Rugby contest, it is hard to ignore the freedom the players have been playing with in the past few weeks.

“We’re another step closer now, aren’t we? There are 4 teams in the hunt and clearly we’ve drawn the best team in the competition, they’ve been there for a reason and they’ve got a home semifinal,” Mitchell said.

“Ultimately you have to stick to the processes, which we’ve done since Nelspruit. It’s the one thing we’ve done well, stayed on the line and looked to the process. You’re always making adjustments to the detail, because each opposition have different threats but the good thing about it is the guys have enjoyed the constant replicated approach which allows you to build clarity and confidence, and ultimately if you stay on that line then results come.

“The Sharks have been in final mode for a couple of weeks, as a result of knowing where they stand. The Currie Cup is very important to them and they’ve probably been focusing on it for a couple of weeks now, and that comes with its own pressures. For us, we’ve had to earn it the hard way, fight every week to present ourselves with the opportunity and nothing will be any different.”

For Mitchell though, the contest between the Bulls and Sharks is just one more step in a long process, and win or lose, his side will give their all, but it has to be on the pathway to greater success down the line.

“We’ve just got to focus on our strengths, they will focus on their strengths and at the end of the day it is a race to see who can initiate those I guess. That is what the contest will be about. We’re really two different teams. All along I’ve said that Currie Cup is not our destination, we’re building towards the future and we will continue to build towards the future.

“If we choose to go further as a result of a good performance, that’s great. But ultimately that’s not our destination – we’re clearly building for the future and as you can see we are improving as a result of focusing on that development.”

Though the Bulls coach didn’t want to be drawn into any predictions.

“That’s the by-product of getting it right and that is what finals come down to – getting it right. But I won’t be drawn into outcome, that is, as much as it is enjoyable, and can be the other way as well. It’s important that we continue to keep getting better, keep understanding why we are getting better and what can make us better as well.

“Every weekend we have to ask the athletes to bring their best self, and that comes from personal ownership and self-awareness, and as long as they continue to keep on learning, we give ourselves every opportunity of becoming a better team. At the end of the day, the competition will go to the most extraordinary team out of the four.”

Mitchell gave both lock Ashton Fortuin and flanker Jannes Kirsten a “50-50” chance of making the side for the semifinal. The team will be announced on Thursday.


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