South Africa could look to Mitchell

Getty Images

    30 Nov 2017     Getty Images

Respected South African rugby writer Mike Greenaway said in the Natal Mercury that change was in the air at South Africa Rugby HQ with an end-of-year review due in December after the international programme ends against Wales on Sunday (NZT).

Standing in the best position to take advantage of the situation is former All Blacks coach John Mitchell.

Greenaway said it was clear from the November internationals that the rugby played by Ireland, Scotland, England and, to a degree, Wales had shown how much they had improved since the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

"Why have the likes of Scotland and Ireland improved so dramatically?

"It is surely no coincidence that the Kiwi influence has played a huge role. New Zealand have for so long been light years ahead in every facet of rugby and one of their biggest exports is quality coaches," he said.

Greenaway pointed to the Scottish example.

"They were deadbeats until Kiwi Vern Cotter took over in 2014. By the time he left in June of this year, the Scotland team was transformed. Structures and a playing style had been put in place and current coach Gregor Townsend has carried on the good work," he said.

It was a similar story in Ireland when Joe Schmidt took on the role while Warren Gatland had become an institution in Wales.

Mitchell could be seen as a short-term option to take the Springboks to Japan in 2019, he said.

Teams he has coached, the Force, Lions and Bulls had all had similar New Zealand-style qualities about them.

"It is a minor miracle that Mitchell had the hapless, directionless Bulls of Super Rugby playing entertaining, running rugby in the Currie Cup after having been in charge for such a short period," he said.

Successful Lions coach Johan Ackermann had developed under Mitchell and that was reflected in the Lions' style of play.

"It is true that Mitchell had his fall-outs with the players of the Force and the Lions but he is on record as saying that he has learned considerably from errors he might have made in terms of man management," Greenaway said.

Mitchell had also lived in South Africa for seven years and was more familiar with the realities of sport in South Africa and the strengths and weaknesses of rugby in the country.

Greenaway said Ackermann should be allowed to continue his development in England with Gloucester with a longer-term role with South Africa in the future.