Bulls appoint John Mitchell

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Bulls, Currie Cup, Original Content, Super Rugby on 26 May 2017 at 08:31
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Current US Eagles head coach John Mitchell has been appointed to the newly-created (and coined) “Executive of Rugby” position at the Bulls.

The 53-year-old Kiwi was unveiled at a rather awkward press conference last night, with Barend van Graan losing some of the impact of announcing this “coup” by pronouncing the “p”. First prize for trying his best to not look miserable goes to current coach Nollis Marais, who was forced to sit alongside Mitchell for the duration and pretend to be thrilled at being so replaced

Mitchell himself needs no introduction – having coached the All Blacks, Force, Lions and mighty UKZN Impi prior to the US gig. His role at Loftus will be an all-encompassing one, taking hands-on control of the Super Rugby team from next season, but also working with Marais (presumably providing advice and guidance) when the latter acts as Currie Cup head coach.

On the face of it, this is a very good appointment for the Bulls, provided (and this is a biggie) they can overcome any, shall we say, “cultural issues” here. Mitchell failed rather spectacularly at both the Force and the Lions when it came to the hearts and minds aspect; all the rugby brains in the world not helping much as the lack of soft skills lead to rifts between himself and his playing corps.

The Bulls do appear to have a massive cultural problem at the moment and it could be something of a white knuckle ride for all parties as Mitchell attempts to correct issues relating not only to the players’ skills and execution, but also to their attitude and work ethic. My money is on a spectacular implosion in a year’s time, but we should expect the Bulls to play some beautiful rugby in the intervening period.

Never a dull moment, is there?


  • I think the bulls will do well under the guidance of an iron-fist – should resonate with the slapgat lax attitude that crept in under both Ludicrous and Nollis.

  • Comment 1, posted at 26.05.17 08:48:48 by FireTheLooser Reply
  • A step in the right direction not recruiting from the bulls legacy. But the chosen candidate may not play well with others. If he does (and leopards yet learn to change from polka dots to zebra stripes) and they can work together bulls may yet become a force again. And what’s with these lofty titles? Just call him the new head coach and be done. I’m sure the title isn’t fooling Nollis who has probably already dusted off his CV.

  • Comment 2, posted at 26.05.17 09:02:01 by coolfusion Reply
  • I think the bulls are not expecting him to last 3 years. Rather 1 year with some major changes and then someone else steps in to inherit his work and reap rewards. Like Johann Ackerman did at lions.

  • Comment 3, posted at 26.05.17 09:05:13 by coolfusion Reply
  • Fasten your seat belts folks, this could be a great ride to watch, and be on.

  • Comment 4, posted at 26.05.17 09:08:07 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • Yoh! 😯 Really thought that these were just rumours and that Johan was already dusting off his coaching whistle. This is not a bad move.. but like Rob said, there is a culture issue that might be problem. This is one that really could go either way.
    I’m grabbing the popcorn; this could get rather entertaining.

  • Comment 5, posted at 26.05.17 09:39:32 by Another Nick Reply

    Another Nick
  • This will be interesting…

  • Comment 6, posted at 26.05.17 09:48:58 by pastorshark Reply
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  • Can the Bulls unearth their own Ackers who plays the good cop to Mitchell’s bad cop, learns from him and takes over when the inevitable bust-up occurs?

  • Comment 7, posted at 26.05.17 09:51:31 by Bokhoring Reply
  • Regarding the culture issue, I think the Bulls management know all to well about it, I think the pressure from sponsors and fans have force this on them and most importantly I think they understand and have embraced it (however grudgingly) I think its going to be a case of shpe up, toe the line or ship out – and that pertains to the players. Nope somewhere a light went on with the dinosaurs that are Bulls rugby and good to them for heeding it.

  • Comment 8, posted at 26.05.17 09:58:17 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • I presume he came at quite a hefty price. So, are the Bulls financialy strong enough to yet again buy 30 odd schoolboys?

  • Comment 9, posted at 26.05.17 10:05:05 by JustPlainSHARK Reply

  • Hope it works out well for them. As much as I love to hate them we need as many well coached Saffa teams as possible. Better for all. But wouldn’t be surprised if it goes tits up in some undreamt of way only the folks from Pretoria can come up with.

  • Comment 10, posted at 26.05.17 10:15:06 by McLovin Reply

  • @JustPlainSHARK (Comment 9) : 30? Last I heard, they clocked 150+ yearly.

    Bigger question: how long before Strauss, Lood and Nyakane run to the next holiday club franchise – Streamers, be afraid, be very afraid. 😈

  • Comment 11, posted at 26.05.17 10:34:21 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 11) : Could be time for sharks to put out feelers for lood. I wonder how forward thinking our talent management is?

  • Comment 12, posted at 26.05.17 10:42:53 by coolfusion Reply

  • I wasted my time watching the Lions series documentary on catchup….then realised why NZ have gone from strength to strength this past 8 years.

    Both Hansen and Wayne Smith were assistant coaches back in 2005 already – when the Lions last toured NZ.

    In 2017, none of the players from 2005 will be playing in the series, yet both assistant coaches are still there (Hansen now being the head coach).

    So continuity is important, but it’s more important within the coaching team than the players.

    Factoid for the day.

  • Comment 13, posted at 26.05.17 10:44:00 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • @coolfusion (Comment 12) : Ditto for nyakane.

  • Comment 14, posted at 26.05.17 10:44:11 by coolfusion Reply

  • @coolfusion (Comment 12) : I think there’s more talented locks pining away at both the bulls and streamers.

    Nyakane might work, he just needs to go on a strength and conditioning program, and muster up some willpower at the dining table to become a very handy TH.

  • Comment 15, posted at 26.05.17 10:49:44 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • Anybody know the Sharks Craven Week Team or can someone find out and do an article on it?

  • Comment 16, posted at 26.05.17 10:55:40 by ChrisS Reply
  • @ChrisS (Comment 16) : I hope Rob doesnt mind me posting this, but here is a link to the different squads.

  • Comment 17, posted at 26.05.17 11:00:48 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 15) : I still think lood is good. He went from a struggling freestate to a clueless bulls setup. If either the Lions or Sharks had bought him he would have looked a lot different now.

  • Comment 18, posted at 26.05.17 11:06:38 by coolfusion Reply

  • @coolfusion (Comment 18) : He needs to harden up….was soft early in his career, then toughened up until he ran away from the tsietas problems to the bulls, then reverted back to his inner marshmallow.

  • Comment 19, posted at 26.05.17 11:28:56 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • @Salmonoid the Subtle (Comment 17) : Thanks

  • Comment 20, posted at 26.05.17 12:41:27 by ChrisS Reply
  • I am so envious of the Bulls. Our structures don’t work, we don’t do well in junior competitions,our reserve side gets beaten more times than not and are never really a threat. Our top side can’t put away a team such as the Rebels, Reds and Kings. Are we not in serious need to a top DOR? Someone like Wayne Smith. May even help the favorite son, Everitt with the backline play. We are competiting not just against players on the field but against their structures, systems and entire coaching team from the top right down to the bottom. England has proved it. When you don’t have the right coaches running the show, prepare for pain and tears. Australia is doing something about their SR coaching. NZ has the best system, let us stop behaving like ostriches, we need help. The warning signs are there. We have not won SR ever…. yet we behave like everything is all good.

  • Comment 21, posted at 26.05.17 12:42:25 by GreatSharksays Reply

  • Anyone here follow USA rugby? Is Mitchell leaving their rugby in a measurably better state than it was?

  • Comment 22, posted at 26.05.17 14:10:19 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • @Salmonoid the Subtle (Comment 22) : Nope, the Eagles record under Mitchell was not much different than under previous coaches. They didn’t beat any big names, with the closest thing a draw to a 3rd choice Argentinian team, but then somehow managed to conspire to lose to Uraguay. Wins were against Canada, Chile, Brazil, and Russia. Losses to powerhouses like Uruguay, Tonga, and even Brazil once. Really a pretty crappy record to be honest.

  • Comment 23, posted at 26.05.17 15:28:33 by Dancing Bear Reply
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  • @Salmonoid the Subtle (Comment 22) : Mitchell was not involved with the USA 7s which have made significant improvements under coach Mike Friday. So USA Rugby under Mitchell did not improve, and he leaves the USA 15s game in the same shape as when he came in.

  • Comment 24, posted at 26.05.17 15:29:49 by Dancing Bear Reply
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  • @Salmonoid the Subtle (Comment 22) : I have this feeling USA Rugby is not too upset about losing Mitchell.

  • Comment 25, posted at 26.05.17 15:30:26 by Dancing Bear Reply
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  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 24) : @Dancing Bear (Comment 25) : Comments by Eagles supporters on various forums says otherwise. They are disappointed that he is leaving, feeling he made a real difference to the team. The Eagles played a number of games without some of their best overseas based players apparently and are unbeaten in 2017. They also report that he was well-liked by the players

  • Comment 26, posted at 26.05.17 15:49:00 by Baylion Reply

  • @Baylion (Comment 26) : 2017 drew with Argentina XV (third choice), wins against Canada, Brazil, Uruguay (barely), and Chile. Basically the same teams the USA always beats. This is no different from previous years. The fans posting comments are impressed with Mitchell’s name and experience, not his performance with the Eagles (in my opinion). Having stayed current with the Eagles for many years, the performances under Mitchell were no better than under previous administrations.

  • Comment 27, posted at 26.05.17 16:03:59 by Dancing Bear Reply
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  • @Baylion (Comment 26) : Let’s also not forget they ended 2016 with 3 losses including losses to Romania and Tonga. The loss to the ABs was somewhat expected. 😉

  • Comment 28, posted at 26.05.17 16:05:41 by Dancing Bear Reply
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  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 23) : Thanks, interesting.
    Maybe, as with the Lions, Mitchell’s best work is done once he has departed. 😈 :mrgreen: 😕

  • Comment 29, posted at 26.05.17 16:20:33 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • How much better is our overall standing and performance now compared with Gold? An honest bottom line comparison?

  • Comment 30, posted at 26.05.17 18:03:58 by coolfusion Reply

  • @coolfusion (Comment 30) : I mean games won compared to same time under Gold?

  • Comment 31, posted at 26.05.17 19:24:21 by coolfusion Reply

  • The cultural issue may not be so bad. Mitchell’s famed no nonsense approach should work for the Boere in Pretoria.

  • Comment 32, posted at 26.05.17 19:33:16 by fyndraai Reply
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  • @fyndraai (Comment 32) : For a little while at least. Which is why they need a farmer to take over once the hunter has course corrected them. It’s actually a shame that he lacks the nurturing skills else he would be a great buy.

  • Comment 33, posted at 26.05.17 20:10:12 by coolfusion Reply

  • @Baylion (Comment 26) : fully agree

  • Comment 34, posted at 27.05.17 14:12:13 by benji Reply
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  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 27) : @Dancing Bear (Comment 28) : all your opinion no doubt

  • Comment 35, posted at 27.05.17 14:13:12 by benji Reply
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  • @fyndraai (Comment 32) : its the perfect match,the discipline, no nambi pambi attitude with a winning mentality

  • Comment 36, posted at 27.05.17 14:15:19 by benji Reply
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  • @benji (Comment 36) : and lets not forget the high skill and tactical levels,but hey the Sharks have a CC coach at best

  • Comment 37, posted at 27.05.17 14:16:41 by benji Reply
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  • @benji (Comment 36) :

    Can you point to examples of the winning?

    I read his bio on wikipedia and frankly, there is no record of great accomplishments to form an opinion on.

  • Comment 38, posted at 27.05.17 15:41:58 by fyndraai Reply
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  • @fyndraai (Comment 38) : the Lions wete both soft mentaly and physically, I was at the game in that final where they destroyed the Sharks, and in the first 15 minutes

  • Comment 39, posted at 27.05.17 17:10:18 by benji Reply
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  • @coolfusion (Comment 31) : After 13 games last year we had 35 points…after 13 we have 42 this year…two more wins at the same stage, one less (losing) bonus point…

  • Comment 40, posted at 27.05.17 21:24:25 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @benji (Comment 39) :

    You’re talking Currie Cup I presume. What about top level rugby?

    Lest we forget that the Cheetahs are current CC champions and the Bulls runner-up

  • Comment 41, posted at 27.05.17 21:29:39 by fyndraai Reply
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  • @fyndraai (Comment 41) : Never mind his win ratio as NZ coach the greatest achievement was introducing and bedding down the style of play NZ now plays and was also involved in setting up the structure they now have

  • Comment 42, posted at 28.05.17 10:11:23 by benji Reply
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  • @benji (Comment 42) :

    Can you explain a little more what the structure is that he setup in 2002 and 2003 that they still use.

  • Comment 43, posted at 28.05.17 13:39:26 by fyndraai Reply
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  • @fyndraai (Comment 43) : Google far better than me

  • Comment 44, posted at 28.05.17 14:05:03 by benji Reply
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  • @benji (Comment 44) :

    Found nothing.

  • Comment 45, posted at 28.05.17 15:40:33 by fyndraai Reply
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  • @fyndraai (Comment 43) : @fyndraai (Comment 45) : Part of not did himself, but I faith in you, persevere

  • Comment 46, posted at 28.05.17 21:36:12 by benji Reply
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