The Bulls board must be bold and appoint John Mitchell as their next head coach, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
After eight defeats in 11 Super Rugby matches this season, it's a matter of when, not if, Nollis Marais gets the chop.
Yes, there are bigger problems at the Bulls than the head coach, reportedly created by high-performance manager Xander Janse van Rensburg and CEO Barend van Graan. But coaches are judged on results and Marais' have simply not been good enough.
The Bulls began their search for a new coach a few weeks ago, with former Bok assistant coach Johann van Graan, Cheetahs coach Franco Smith, and former All Blacks coach John Mitchell making the short-list.
Van Graan reportedly impressed the Bulls board with a presentation at Loftus last Friday. However, while he has the ability to make the Bulls competitive again, can he help transform them into a team that can regularly beat New Zealand franchises and challenge for the Super Rugby title?
To do that, the Bulls must play at a far greater tempo and intensity than they have been, train at game speed, and become as fit as the Kiwi franchises.
Who on that short-list has the best chance of achieving that?
The Stormers overlooked Mitchell for their vacant coaching job in November 2015, and the Bulls must not make the same mistake.
Mitchell won the Currie Cup with the Lions in 2011 and laid the foundation for the Super Rugby success that followed under Johan Ackermann, who served as his assistant. Yes, Mitchell left Joburg under a cloud in 2012, after some of the players complained about his behaviour, but all 28 charges against him were dropped and he received a substantial payout from the Lions.
It's an open secret that Mitchell was WP director of rugby Gert Smal's preferred choice to replace Allister Coetzee as Stormers coach. However, a phone call from then Saru president Oregan Hoskins to WP president Thelo Wakefield, warning him not to hire the New Zealander, saw Robbie Fleck appointed instead. (The money the Lions paid to Mitchell came from Saru, as the Lions were broke at the time, so Hoskins had an axe to grind.)
Mitchell then accepted an offer to become coach of the USA Eagles, who won this year's Americas Rugby Championship. His contract with them ends after the 2019 World Cup, but if both parties can come to an agreement, Mitchell could be released after the June Tests and on his way to Pretoria.
There's no doubt the Bulls can regain their former glory, but to do so they need to be bold and appoint the best man for the job, regardless of nationality.
That man is Mitchell.
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