John Mitchell: Personal vendettas made me leave SA

John Mitchell
John Mitchell

Former All Blacks coach John Mitchell believes personal vendettas have severely tarnished his reputation in South Africa.

Mitchell has been appointed head coach of the USA Eagles for the next four years, after missing out on the Stormers' Super Rugby job.

Mitchell, who coached the All Blacks from 2001 to 2003, was cleared in 2012 of allegations around poor treatment of players while coaching the Lions in Super Rugby.

He told Radio Sport the USA job will mean he can escape the politics that surround him in South Africa.

"At the end of the day I've never been charged with any of the allegations. It's only perception only. I've had to deal with a fair bit of politics in my time but I'm heading into an environment where there is stability above me," Mitchell told Radio Sport's Kent Johns.

"The Lions situation was orchestrated. I was basically cleared of all 28 allegations and clearly [President of the South African Rugby Union] Oregan Hoskin and [Golden Lions president] Kevin de Klerk have still got a vendetta against me here in South Africa. So my expertise isn't warranted."

"This opportunity in many ways is the better of the opportunities, because in many ways in the process of the Stormers it became very evident to me that I think the process saved me.

Mitchell will head to the USA later in the month as the country sets to launch its first professional rugby competition in May. The competition with have six teams and Mitchell will mentor the coaches of each franchise.

He says the recent success of the USA Sevens team, including a recent win over the All Blacks Sevens, proves what they can achieve.

"Their first year of professionalism as a sevens country, they've already demonstrated they can be very competitive with the New Zealand sevens and South Africa. I think we've all got to take encouragement of the development of Argentina and the style of football they've generated in the last three years as well. To me nothing's impossible to improve from where they've been."

Mitchell says if the right investment is made, USA could be an international threat in a decade.

"I think 15s is still a long way off. A decade to 12 years might give you an indication of greater success at a World Cup. But that is directly proportional to the investment that is put in the game and also the recruitment and development of players in the game over the period. They're very much in their infancy but they have the resources to get better."

- NZ Herald

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