Mitchell rejected Stormers job

Date published: June 10 2015

Former All Black coach John Mitchell has revealed that he turned down the chance to become the Stormers' head coach.

Mitchell confirmed he was approached earlier this year to replace Allistair Coetzee but he turned down the offer after giving it some consideration.

Coetzee will leave for Japan to coach the Kolbeco Steelers at the completion of the Stormers' current Super Rugby campaign.

Mitchell, who previously coached the Western Force and the Lions, explained that he would have been interested in the Stormers offer if the terms were more agreeable to him, especially the length of the contract.

“An approach was made to me and there were negotiations, but unfortunately Gert Smal is only contracted as Western Province director of rugby for another two years, so there were no guarantees for me beyond that period,” he told Supersport.

“Had I been offered a four-year deal, it would have been different. But I have travelled around the world a lot to pursue my career as a coach and didn’t want to uproot my family again for the promise of just two years. 

"I didn’t want to commute either, as I believe you have to be fully immersed in a culture to be effective as a coach.

“There was also uncertainty about how long Gert would stay. If the Boks bomb in this year’s World Cup, will he not be courted by SARU to fill one of the national posts, perhaps not as a coach but maybe as a performance director? 

"I can work with Gert but I have been in a situation before where I signed up a coach to work with a director of rugby and then it never happened and I was left on a limb.

“It happened when I was at the Lions. I joined them ostensibly to work with Dick Muir, who was officially the Lions’ director of rugby, but it just never happened. 

"There was some misunderstanding somewhere and I never got to see Dicky in that role. I don’t want to have to go through that again.”

Mitchell said another factor which ruled him out was that he would not have the luxury of chosing his own assistant coaches but would be working with people who are already in the Cape Town-based franchise's coaching system.

“I have no doubt that WP have the playing resources and the talent pipeline, but do they have the competency in the rest of the coaching structure there to win a Super Rugby title? I place a question mark over that," he added. 

"I don’t believe that one man alone can go in and effect change and turn a franchise into a Super Rugby champion unit.

“It is something that takes time, and it becomes more difficult if all the other pre-existing structures are still in place, meaning that you are one man trying to effect change as opposed to a team of people trying to change something. 

"The Crusaders have probably suffered in recent years because they’ve had just one strong coach in Todd Blackadder.

“Conversely, the Chiefs, with all their top experienced coaches working together, are an example of what can be gained by having experience to draw on alongside you in the management. 

"It’s the same with the Waratahs, where Michael Cheika is not man alone. That was just one of the considerations that I had to think about when weighing up the Stormers approach.

“In the end I had to consider that I am now set up in business and probably have 15 years of security to look forward to, whereas if I went back into coaching on a two year contract I would leave myself vulnerable to being in the same position I was in when I left the Lions. 

"I had to weigh up two against 15, along with those other factors, so regrettably I had to inform Gert that I wasn’t interested. If a longer contract was offered that would be different.”