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BREAKING NEWS: John Mitchell is the new Bulls boss!

Super Rugby

Former All Black boss John Mitchell was appointed as the new Bulls Executive of Rugby, which is effectively the director of rugby, on Thursday night at Loftus Versfeld.

The 53-year-old Mitchell, who was in charge of New Zealand at the 2003 Rugby World Cup, will leave his post as the head coach of the United States after they complete their World Cup qualifiers in June.

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John Mitchell when he was in charge of the All Blacks. Photo: AP

Mitchell is expected to coach the Bulls Super Rugby team next season, and current head coach Nollis Marais will remain part of the Bulls management team as the Currie Cup coach, following a disastrous Super Rugby campaign in which the three-time champions have lost eight out of 11 matches.

Mitchell is no stranger to South African rugby. He is still based in Durban, and was in charge of the Lions from 2010-2012.

His time in Johannesburg was riddled with controversy off the field, with allegations of mistreating players and using foul language. All charges against him were dismissed, though, and Mitchell kept his job.

However, he decided to quit soon afterwards and joined Sale Sharks in England.

Not much more than a month later, though, Mitchell left that post to return to South Africa, and he was soon helping out the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) in the Varsity Cup, but following Eddie Jones’ brief time in charge of the Stormers, Mitchell was soon touted as a candidate in late 2015.

John Mitchell caps a USA player. Photo: @mfactorcoaching via Twitter


The Stormers management decided not to opt for Mitchell due to concerns about his man-management following consultations with his previous employers, with WP Rugby president Thelo Wakefield saying at the time that he didn’t want to put “players and the team management at risk (of such problems occurring again)”.

But since then, Mitchell has tried to rebuild rugby in America, and in March this year, they won the Americas Rugby Championship for the first time, having beaten Brazil, Canada, Chile and Uruguay, and drawing with an Argentina XV.

Mitchell, though, boasted an excellent record at the All Blacks, where he was in charge for 28 matches, with 23 wins, four defeats and a draw.

But he was fired after they lost to Australia in the 2003 Rugby World Cup semi-finals, and they ended third after beating France in a playoff.

John Mitchell at the USA Rugby headquarters. Photo: @mfactorcoaching via Twitter


Mitchell was credited with discovering a number of the modern-day All Black greats such as Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Ma’a Nonu.

He also planted the seed in the turnaround at the Lions from 2010-2012, despite the fall-out at the end, as the Joburgers started implementing the attacking philosophy that sees them as the leading South African Super Rugby team today.

But he will have a huge challenge on his hands to take the Bulls out of the doldrums, with a number of top players having left the Pretoria side in recent years.

Perhaps a bit of his renowned “tough love”, as well as his status as a rugby mastermind, may be the answer…

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