“Sheep shaggers”, “Inbred Scots”, or “Earthquake Puppets” call them what you will but it’s become apparent that NZL are the kings of the rugby world.
These rugby-geniuses have played a part in lifting two of the most converted rugby prizes for every South African rugby fan. Last week the small pacific island held onto a narrow win over a spirited French side to claim the Holy Grail.
This past Saturday two of the most elite coaches in the country (both sheep-shaggers) led their teams onto a battlefield to slog it out for the Currie Cup.
The Currie Cup may seem a tad bit boring considering the month-long spectacle we’ve just witnessed but it still carries a lot of tradition. It is the oldest provincial competition in the world. Hoisting the cup is an honour amongst all players and playing in a final is a major highlight in anyone’s career.
The 2011 competition concluded at Ellis Park (Coca Cola Park) and saw a Spingbok-laden Sharks outfit take on a rejuvenated Lions side in front of a capacity crowd. Many had written off the chances of the Highveld team, including myself (full-blooded KZN boy) but what happened in those 80mins left a sour taste in every Durban-born Saffa.
Lead by the inspirational bearded wonder, Josh Strauss, the Lions ran the Sharks ragged. They outplayed the defending champions in every facet of the game and showed a hunger that has been missing in JHB for years. It has been 61 years since the Lions lifted the cup; previous brawls with the Sharks were not in their favour either. Against all odds the Lions roared and bulldozed their way to a convincing victory over the favourites.
John Mitchell (Lions coach) has played an instrumental role in instilling self-confidence and belief in a team that has been in a slump for years. When he took the reigns things seemed bleak, positive results weren’t coming, and change seemed a figment of every loyal supporter’s imagination. To make matters worse, Mitchell had his house broken into; he got robbed of his possessions at knife-point in his very first year in the country. Your average foreigner would’ve packed his bags and headed back to their land of birth. Not this bald mastermind though, he stuck things through and simply adapted to the realities of South Africa.
His persistence, bravery and patience paid off. In the latter stages of last year’s Super15 we saw glimpses of brilliance from a team use to fighting to avoid last position. A flame was brewing, confidence was growing and it was only a matter of time before they became a unit that commanded respect and fear from their opponents.
In less than a year, John Mitchell has transformed the Lions. The youngsters have excelled under his guidance, Elton Jantjies, Jaco Taute and Michael Killian being the most noticeable improvements. Ellton had plenty of potential when his career started, with many pundits tipping him as a future Bok flyhalf but his inaccuracy with the boot smashed his hopes of being in the World Cup squad. All of that is forgotten though and his left-boot now has the pinpoint accuracy of a seasoned veteran.
With Pieter De Villiers set to step down as national coach at the end of the year, it would be a travesty if SARU looked beyond the two New Zealand coaches we have in the country. John Plumtree (Sharks coach) won the competition last year; only to have his buddy Mitchell, snatch it out of his grasp.
Pride and patriotism aside, it would only serve the country well if we appointed one of these maestros to resurrect the Springboks. Who else could convert our old, outdated gameplan into something that the rest of the world could marvel at?
Look no further than John Mitchell. He should get the job on the simple grounds of merit. With him at the helm we will be the hulk-like force we once were four years ago.