Out with the old and in with the... old

Marc Lewis

John Mitchell has resumed his post as head coach of the Golden Lions Rugby Union. While I have no problem with him returning, I am, if anything quite surprised to be honest.

It’s seldom that a saga as multifaceted as this one, somehow ends amicably; and instead of Mitchell moving on, he has shown resolve and returned to his role. Talk about an awkward morning at the office.

The big question remains how will the players take to John Mitchell? Surely those who raised the complaints were hoping to have Mitchell removed? To add another dynamic to this ever-evolving scenario, is Johan Ackermann.

The acting head coach fell into the position when the team was at its lowest and instead of crumbling, he picked up the pieces and guided them to a Currie Cup semi final, where in fact, they were seconds away from consecutive final appearances - if it wasn’t for an injury time try from Duane Vermeulen, giving Western Province a 21-16 win in Johannesburg. Allister Coetzee’s men eventually went on to lift the trophy in Durban, shocking the Sharks at home, ending an eleven year trophy drought for the Newlands faithful.

You can’t take anything away from John Mitchell. He is a fabulous coach who demands nothing but excellence from his players. In 2011, he turned a seemingly broken bunch of misfits into Currie Cup champions, something Johannesburg rugby fans have not been able to say for years.

We need to remind ourselves that this is professional rugby. These are big burly men who pound people into the ground for a living. You cannot go crying to mom if someone speaks to you in a harsh tone. I will never forget my high school rugby coach: “Rugby is not for sissies!” He would say it every time we complain about the excessive fitness training; and while I do understand there is a line between hard encouragement and abuse, surely these men over the years have heard far worse from opponents on the field?

Mitchell was quoted saying, “I am excited about being back at the Lions and learnt a lot during the time I was away. I am looking forward to working with the many new faces in the team and I am sure they will bring a lot of energy to our set-up”.

The Lions got their pre-season under way on Monday morning, where all players underwent various forms of testing and team management continued to plan for the upcoming season.

Regardless of what happens at the Lions and whether it’s John Mitchell, Johann Ackermann or my grandmother taking the team forward, Lions fans will all agree on one thing: the Lions need to get themselves back into Super Rugby… and if John Mitchell is the man to do it then so be it.

Firstly, welcome back Mitch, and secondly, thank you to Ackers who looked after the team during such a dark time.

Now let’s get back to winning.