Cut the WS, says Mitch
In his autobiography released this month, the former All Black reveals his side of a tumultuous career in which he left coaching jobs at the All Blacks, Western Force and the Golden Lions under a cloud.
Mitchell coached the Lions to Currie Cup success in 2011 but was suspended the following season pending a disciplinary hearing over alleged misconduct.
He was exonerated after the case went before the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration but soon afterwards negotiated his exit from Ellis Park because he felt the trust between him, union executives and the team had broken down.
In his candid and revealing book about the life of a top-flight coach, Mitchell talks about the time he spent with the Lions. He offers insight into how the disastrous equity arrangement with businessmen Robert Gumede and Ivor Ichikowitz affected the players, as well as how being kicked out of Super Rugby in favour of the Kings ruined the Lions’ morale.
Mitchell, who became a victim of crime during his stay in Joburg (he was attacked, stabbed and robbed in the town house he was staying in), says claims that he used profanity to humiliate and insult his players, and that the group were dissatisfied with his methods, were concocted to get rid of him.
“Take away the bulls**t and what it boils down to is that the Lions just never had the money to pay me – and someone was fighting for his political survival,” Mitchell writes.
He accuses the Lions players of being “fat”, “lazy” and “unpunctual” when he first NO NONSENSE Former Lions coach John Mitchell has written a tell-all book on his life as a rugby coach Mitch – The Real Story by John Mitchell and Gavin Rich took over as coach. “I have no regrets about being strong-minded. I was given the responsibility, in my position as head coach, to get the best out of the individual and to challenge that individual to become part of a successful team. You can’t achieve that by being soft on everyone the whole time. “That just doesn’t work in a resultsdriven business,” he says.
“But perhaps I have been a bit too tough, and maybe I am too dedicated to selfishly pursuing performance outcomes.
“But then, I often ask myself the question: would soccer managers like Alex Ferguson, José Mourinho and Louis van Gaal survive in rugby? My guess is that they wouldn’t. “They are all difficult people in their own way, and I am not sure such behaviour would be tolerated in a rugby environment. And yet it can’t be denied that Ferguson got results in soccer.
“Why shouldn’t it work like that in rugby? What makes rugby players more precious?” he writes.
Golden Lions Rugby Union president Kevin de Klerk said Mitchell was “factually incorrect in certain areas and selective in others”.
He added: “He was our coach, who at the time was carried on our hands and given every assistance in performing his work.
“He had a tough time emotionally during his time with us and we even went as far as to provide him with a life coach during this period.
“We parted ways very amicably and are somewhat surprised about this attack on the Lions.
“The statements that ‘the Lions just never had the money to pay me’ and ‘someone is fighting for his political survival’ are factually untrue.
“The parting of our ways goes much deeper and was more painful for all of those involved, including the players. There are two sides to every story,” said De Klerk.