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Former All Blacks coach John Mitchell could be lost to the Bulls after apparently rejecting his contract extension offer from the Pretoria-based franchise.

Mitchell, who joined the Bulls last year in July as the executive for rugby, could walk out on the three-time Super Rugby champions at the end of October next year if his two-year contract is not renewed.

Mitchell has allegedly refused to sign on the dotted line to keep him at Loftus Versfeld beyond 2019 as he wants total and complete control of the franchise’s high performance programme buy-in from the Blue Bulls Company board of directors on his strategy to acquire a host of Springboks in their ambition to win Super Rugby again.

While Mitchell is probably the highest paid coach in the country and is set to get more money with his contract extension, he is more concerned about securing the services of a defence coach and to strengthen his Super Rugby squad with some big-name players.

Among the players on Mitchell’s shopping list is Springbok eighthman Duane Vermeulen, who the Bulls are looking to acquire for next year’s Super Rugby campaign, along with 37-year-old Springbok hooker Schalk Britz, who has recently retired after spending nine years at English Premiership outfit Saracens.

The Japan-based Vermeulen will obviously be available for Super Rugby, while Britz will be on a short-term deal that will see him play one season of Super Rugby, giving him an opportunity to be available for the Springboks ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Other Springboks on Mitchell’s wish list are prop Frans Malherbe and flank Jean-Luc du Preez, while Lions flank Cyle Brink is allegedly on the verge of putting pen to paper.

Springbok loose forward Oupa Mohoje and centre Lionel Mapoe have also been linked with possible moves to the capital but there have been no formal talks between the players and the franchise.

At the same time, Mitchell is looking at releasing a plethora of players who he feels do not fit into his plans, including former Junior Springboks Ruben van Heerden, JT Jackson and Franco Naudé, while Mitchell has also stressed the need to for the Bulls to recruit the best juniors available instead of swelling their junior ranks with numbers.

“We’ve got to build depth and it is pretty clear where we’ve got to build depth as well,” Mitchell said this week.

“We cannot rotate players unless you have experienced depth. We as a club have, rightly or wrongly, relied on introducing youth into Super Rugby far too early.

“It is important to us to make sure we’ve got two teams of Super Rugby quality and that is what we will be building towards.”

The 54-year-old New Zealander would not comment on his current impasse with his employers but he will have another opportunity to present his vision and plans to the board in their strategy session in Johannesburg today and tomorrow.

“I can’t really say anything much about John’s position at the moment,” said Willem Strauss, Blue Bulls Rugby Union interim president and chairperson of the BBC board of directors.

“We will be discussing various matters in our strategy session as a board and that also includes our vision and what we need to do to be successful again.”

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31 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t really know if the bulls have this kind of cash to buy these types of players and challenge for a super rugby final. It’s a big investment and I suspect they getting cold feet after that season. In their prime over 5 years ago , the salary bill of the players must have been huge with matfield, bakkies, rossouw, gurthro , fdp, etc

  2. Nobody wants to do the hard work anymore like HM and coach Ackers that took a team and made the players he had world class

    No SA team has the money like Toulon to buy a trophy

    I do agree with Mitch that we need to invest in our juniors and build a two team squad of quality but that comes from hard work and good coaching not buying your way there

  3. @Jacques:

    Fair enough, but do you have buy-in from management and the fans that they are prepared to wait for a certain amount of years to give you the opportunity to develop and build the squad of title winners? As for your comparison, Heyneke was the only coach that built a squad that would lift the Super trophy. Ackerman’s team did not have that honour. Mitchell was clear that he wants to bring together a squad to win the Super trophy.

  4. @Craven: Agree – it’s not that coaches do not WANT to do the hard development stuff, we (public and management and sponsors) just don’t have the tolerance for that. We want results – every Saturday – or we start posts like “what a farce Super rugby is”. Unfortunately Rassie’s agreement to use players from overseas is going to backfire in a downward spiral: More good players will leave –> more losses locally –> less spectators and interest –> less money for unions –> more players leave…

  5. Pie-in-the-sky stuff from Mitchell… there is not the money to buy a team in any South African anymore particularly guys like Vermeulen that are still being head-hunted by numerous OS suitors.

    The guy inherited a pretty damn good base of young players already capped for the Boks and with several seasons in the Bulls system, which is arguably one of the most established in the land, yet he is pretty much already throwing the excuses into the ring for exit. He never made any such noises at the Force with far less resources albeit less expectations there. This angle has been apparent for a few rounds now with his moaning about depth.

    Poor form… or is it form…

  6. @bryce_in_oz: Interesting is how many time it’s ONLY Mitchell in the press interviews post or pre match. Seems there is again a trust issue between the players and their coach? Only way that he will survive his contract next year, is that the Boels does not have money to buy him out and hire a new wunderkind (with a snor…)

  7. Something really odd here.

    Why do the Blue Bulls Company hold their strategy session in Johannesburg?

  8. @Timeo: You trawling for some wisecrack answers?..? Here goes – something to do with there being a lack of vision when you are on the wrong side of the Jukskei??

  9. Note the contrast between Mitchell and Swys…

    “‘We want to embrace a policy of backing our own talent that’s at our disposal. We have a really good youth system in place here, and it’s important for us to put trust in our own home-grown players.

    ‘The plan is to continue backing our players, who we believe are good enough, and we’ll only really look to buy in players from elsewhere if absolutely necessary in specific positions.’

    ‘Of course, there comes a time when certain players move on, as we’ve seen, but there are also a lot of others who are staying, and then there’s an encouraging succession system in place. So we’re very excited about what lies ahead.’”

    I supposed it comes with the territory when one coach is top of the table and the other is a wooden-spooner…

  10. I like that Swys a lot. Reality is Bulls fans don’t want to wait 3-4 seasons for Mitchell to ‘develop’ a team. They want to win the title today. You can’t win a super rugby title without at least 5 worldclass stars and depth in every position. Look at the bulls team that won it – the pack was immense with starts in their prime, not being developed.

    But I agree there should be a different expectation on Mitchell which is to develop the side, rather than win it.

  11. No uncertainty. ZeeBulls will always choose to revert or rather STAY – Evil.
    After reading I checked the calandar to see if it was April 1st.
    So Mitchell thinks the pensioner duo of Brits & Vermuleun carry the keys to ZeeBulls – diabolical – kingdom, Hades of course.
    LMFAO.
    Mitch- wear a hat or grow your hair out. You’ve been in the sun too long.

  12. The Bulls team that won it was basically a veteran springbok team.

    Steenkamp, matfield, bakkies, danie danie rossouw were beasts of the game. FdP and Morne Steyn probably best halfback combination in the world. Habana the best wing. Spies and stegman and Gary Botha and Olivier all v good.

    Too expect Mitchell to do the same with a young RG snyman and pollard is a joke.

  13. The team that should be competing to win it are the stormers. With kitshoff, Louw, makherbe, yster, psdt, Kolisi etc – their results are v bad.

  14. The choice is for the Bulls – if they want to try win it then they’ve got to try get players like JLDP, Vermeulen, Malherbe, Kock, etc. The two big ones in SA rugby are Marx and Etsebeth, but I don’t think Bulls needs locks.

    Otherwise, they will develop mid-table.

  15. @cab:

    Nobody was expecting him to win it in his first season… some were not even expecting him to make the play-offs even with a ludicrous conference system… but nobody would be happy with coming last in the conference having inherited a young team many capped and most already in their third… and then for him to already start blaming the lack of talent at the union many rounds back not to mention veiled threats of leaving.

    You can spin that any way you want.

  16. Judge him on next seasons results. He’s trying to teach Greek to Japanese speakers. He’s trying to drag them into pro era. He demands excellence. The players should be thrilled given the opportunity. Modern sa Kate’s too lazy with biltong and braai etc, none of that old school commitment.

  17. Force also backward Ozzie amateurs. You want NZ results without the pro commitment, impossible.

  18. Imagine how players like Krige, Kruger, Venter would have performed. They would have loved the challenge of everything Mitchell could throw at them and more. Nowawadays 1 or 2 harsh words after a few losses or being pushed too hard, and most of SA modern lot looking for cushy overseas role where they end up being drilled just as hard. Too much rock-star mentality. As soon as our get a bit of recognition, it’s demanding more, rather than delivering more. Brad thorn another pro player. Tough as they come – I wouldn’t have him as a great forward-thinking coach tho. There are a few exceptions – the truly great players like etsebeth and Marx deliver week in and week out, regardless who they playing for

  19. @out wide:

    Actually I was just amazed about how clueless these guys are.
    From the fans’ perspective JNB is enemy territory.
    The optics is as bad as Pepsi holding their boardmeeting in Coca Cola tower.

  20. @Timeo: That has changed.

    The more likely scenario is that it is in SANDTON and the media refers to anything in Gauteng outside of Vereeniging and Pretoria as “Johannesburg”

    Politicians have a meeting in Kempton Park by the airport = Johannesburg

    Carletonville miners strike = Johannesburg

    Emerald City Casino in Meyerton = Johannesburg

    Anything past Old Pretoria Road exit southwards = Johannesburg

  21. @DavidS:

    No.
    The W in PWV stands for Witwatersrand which is Johannesburg plus its dependencies.

    I know you Kempies and Germies and Boksburgers have a hard time facing the fact that you all live in suburbs of of Jo’burg, but it’s a fact none the less.

  22. @Timeo: never thought I’d get to say this, but you are an apartheid sympathizer. PWV does not exist anymore, it’s called Gauteng.

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