CAPE TOWN – John Mitchell says he will use “all my experience and focus to bring the necessary clarity and confidence to the players from a defensive perspective” when he joins Eddie Jones’ England management.
The Blue Bulls Company and England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) both confirmed Mitchell’s departure from Loftus Versfeld with immediate effect on Tuesday.
It has been reported that the Bulls received a sizable payout of between R3 million-R5 million to release Mitchell early from his contract.
The 54-year-old Mitchell has been appointed as England’s defence coach until the end of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, and will come face-to-face with some of his former players when the Springboks take on the English at Twickenham on November 2.
Mitchell was previously an England assistant coach from 1997 to 2000 under Sir Clive Woodward, and was also the All Black head coach from 2001 to 2003 – where he had a win ratio of 23 out of 28 Tests, with one draw.
He was replaced by Sir Graham Henry in 2004 after the Kiwis lost in the 2003 World Cup semi-finals to Jones’ Wallabies.
“This is an exciting opportunity to work with England Rugby and support Eddie Jones as head coach,” Mitchell said on Tuesday.
“I will be joining an elite high-performance programme, Test team and coaching group, where I will use all my experience and focus to bring the necessary clarity and confidence to the players from a defensive perspective.”
There have been media reports that Mitchell was frustrated by the lack of buying power at the Bulls, who have been linked with Springboks such as Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Brits.
Mitchell replaces Paul Gustard, who has joined Harlequins, and Jones was delighted to have a new defence coach.
“Defence is a key pillar of our game and John is an experienced coach. He’s coached the All Blacks, USA Rugby and a number of Super Rugby sides, so he will bring a wealth of experience and add to the coaching mix we have here.”
The Bulls – who finished in 12th position in Super Rugby this year under Mitchell – are now searching for a new director of rugby, with the likes of Victor Matfield, John Dobson and Jimmy Stonehouse believed to be in the running.
Chief executive Barend van Graan said: “We would like to humbly thank Mitch for his efforts over the last year.
“There is no doubt that he has made an impact on our brand, and we would like to wish him all of the best with his future endeavours.”