PRETORIA - It has been seven weeks since John Mitchell underwent his second initiation in the oldest domestic rugby competition in the world.
And while it might have begun on a sour note with the Blue Bulls copping a 51-15 hiding from the Pumas in Nelspruit, it seems as if all the pain endured at the beginning of his second coaching spell in the Currie Cup might just end in glory.
There is still a very good chance that the Bulls could slip in through the back door and make the Currie Cup play-offs but that will depend on their return encounter against the Pumas at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night.
Mitchell, however, doesn’t want to burden his players with the extra load of playing for a spot in the play-offs and rather wants to see more growth.
“I think it is nice for the guys to have brought closure, I still think they were deserving against Western Province (lost 46-45 by the Bulls two weeks ago). I think it has been building for a while now so it is nice for them to get reward (against the Cheetahs - a 64-36 victory this past weekend) ,” said Mitchell.
“Confidence has to be learnt. It is also fragile as well because you got to get back on the horse and focus on the little things again and repeat the stuff that’s important to come again. But it is also a good thing as well to hurt.
"It is probably more the fact that it is all well to have individual confidence but it is the collective confidence that creates cohesion. It seems that everyone was in sync on the weekend, which is pleasing.”
Following their 51-15 drubbing in Nelspruit, the Bulls have improved in leaps and bounds under the tutelage of Mitchell and they would have also gathered the emotional intelligence to realise that playing their own game, and not revenge, will probably get them over the line.
In the week leading up to the game against the Pumas, the Bulls had undergone one of their most difficult weeks with then coach Nollis Marais being relieved of his duties and Mitchell taking over.
“The Pumas are good and we didn’t help ourselves on that evening as well. They were able to initiate their strengths, but mentally we are a different side compared to that evening. We have a long way to go and we realise our limitations in the areas we need to grow. But we are in a far better space emotionally than we were,” said Mitchell.
"We went through change that week and it wasn’t easy for anyone regardless of whether it was right or wrong. You got to take your hat off to these guys who have had to go through two lots of change."
And while Mitchell will relish another opportunity of again getting his hands on the Holy Grail of domestic rugby, he fully appreciates that in good time his team will be deserving of what will come their way in terms of silverware.
“It’s to keep getting better in what we do. The penny is dropping in a couple of areas that are really important like in the dynamic part of the game and continuity. We know what is coming on the weekend, they gave us a good hiding and they are in the hunt as well, so it is an exciting weekend.”