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Mitchell walks out on the Sharks

Sat, 29 Dec 2012 17:18
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It was a shorter term than envisaged
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Former All Blacks coach John Mitchell has walked out on yet another team, leaving Sale Sharks under a cloud after just a month.

It was revealed on Saturday that Mitchell quit as Sale head coach of the English Premiership club.

Mitchell's departure came a day after Sale scored just their second league win of the season, against Worcester on Friday.

However, less than 24 hours later Sale issued a statement confirming that the Kiwi had left his role to return to South Africa for "personal reasons".

The 48-year-old only joined Sale at the end of November, as the struggling Sharks battle to avoid relegation from the Premiership.

He was scheduled to return to the Golden Lions in Johannesburg only in February, to work in advisory capacity on new head coach Johan Ackermann's backroom staff.

Sale owner Brian Kennedy issued a statement in which he expressed his regret at Mitchell's early departure.

"John was brought in on a consultancy basis with a view to the possibility of being employed in a longer term position within Sale Sharks," Kennedy said.

"He has had to return to South Africa for personal reasons which we respect.

"We are grateful for his valuable and insightful contributions albeit for a shorter term than envisaged.

"Steve Diamond, Bryan Redpath and Pete Anglesea will continue to coach the side, implementing many of John’s ideas, and building on last [Friday] night's excellent performance."

Mitchell, 48, has a reputation as a bruiser and has fallen out with player at several of his former teams - most notably when he was suspended earlier this year by the Golden Lions Rugby Union.

He was axed from the All Blacks coaching staff, despite a success rate of more than 80 percent and taking them to the 2003 World Cup semifinal.

There was a much-publicised public spat with legendary All Black fullback Christian Cullen - which resulted in members of the New Zealand media labelling him as a "devious, scheming, ruthless, ticking time bomb".

Without the courtesy of a phone call, Mitchell dropped players like Jeff Wilson, Taine Randell and Christian Cullen. Mitchell claimed Cullen was unavailable due to injury, but ended up with egg on his face when Cullen went public saying he was fit.

It also came as no surprise to his critics in New Zealand when Mitchell became embroiled in another brouhaha, this time in Perth where he and the player roster at the Western Force were locked in a power struggle. Words such as mutiny were bandied about. The franchise called in a retired judge to sort the mess and Mitchell's powers over the team were temporarily revoked.

Eventually an uneasy truce was brokered, but often his assistant John Mulvihill was seen calling the shots at training. Wallaby legend Matt Giteau went public with the fact that he is not a fan of Mitchell's rugby philosophies.

Before his contract with the Force ran out in 2011, Mitchell took up the post as head coach at the Lions in Johannesburg in 2010. While he had some initial success, even winning the Currie Cup in 2011, the players gradually became more and more disillusioned over his belligerent behaviour.

It all came to head midway through this year's Super Ruby season, when the team locked him out of the dressing room before the encounter with the Sharks. The bottom-placed Lions easily beat the title-chasing Sharks when they changed the game plan behind closed doors.

It was not the first time a team had locked Mitchell out.

One of the best examples involves an enraged Mitchell tearing strips off the Force during a half-time speech. The story goes Mitchell was indignant his team were not following his gameplan and stormed out of the shed after a few choice words saying "you can coach yourselves".

The players locked the door behind him, and did just that, and went on to comfortably win the match.

Mitchell is also not scared to use profanities, as many members of the media can attest to when the press and coaching boxes are in close proximity in stadiums.

As for his own image as a no-nonsense operator, Mitchell has made no apologies.

"I'm not here to be liked," he told the Telegraph in a recent interview, after having axed England international Danny Cipriani.

"If there's healthy tension, then that's a good thing. I want to challenge people but I want to inspire them too. I'm not here for my ego. I have never been in it for that."

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