Golden Lions finally get their man

03 September 2010 - 02:08 By Craig Ray

The Golden Lions revolution, which for a decade has spluttered and collapsed without ever starting, might finally have moved off the line with the appointment of John Mitchell as coach for the next three years.

Mitchell was unveiled as the union's new acquisition after negotiations to free him from the final year of his Western Force contract were finalised.

The New Zealander, who is a former All Black coach, has been coaching the Lions in the Currie Cup this season. Despite a lack of stars and deep playing resources Mitchell has turned the ailing team into a competitive unit manned by young players.

Super 14 coach Dick Muir will stay on as director of rugby, but Mitchell will be responsible for day-to-day running of the team as head coach.

Mitchell's stature should also help the Lions lure top-class names to the beleaguered union. Losing all 13 matches in this year's Super 14 sent out a message that the union was dysfunctional.

But the Lions are targeting John Smit and Butch James as two acquisitions for next year, and they're also understood to be in talks with Bryan Habana about a possible return to the union.

Mitchell is the kind of coach who can attract quality players.

He is statistically the second most successful All Black coach of the modern era. When he was All Black coach in 2002-03, the team won 23 of 28 Tests with one draw.

"Since John has been with us on a consultancy arrangement, we have been most impressed with his ability across our entire coaching structure," said Golden Lions president Kevin de Klerk.

"In John we are getting not only a man of high ethics who cherishes the history, culture and camaraderie of rugby, but [one] who boasts an exceptional coaching pedigree at the very highest level. We at the Lions are extremely excited at being able to pull this off."