Former All Blacks coach John Mitchell had Stormers job blocked by top official

John Mitchell's abrasive style didn't appeal to the Stormers who were searching for Allister Coetzee's replacement.
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John Mitchell's abrasive style didn't appeal to the Stormers who were searching for Allister Coetzee's replacement.

Former All Blacks coach John Mitchell was prevented from coaching South Africa Super Rugby team, the Stormers, because a top administrator was against his appointment.

Reports in South Africa have stated Western Province Rugby Union (WPRU) director of rugby Gert Smal wanted Mitchell, who had previously coached the Lions and Western Force in Super Rugby, but union President Thelo Wakefield refused to grant him his wish.

Wakefield said his organisation did thorough research regarding Mitchell, by contacting administrators and players he had previously coached. Their feedback seems to have cost Mitchell a job with the Cape Town team. Robbie Fleck was named as the interim coach last weekend.

Earlier there had been reports that the Stormers players were reluctant to have Mitchell, known for his abrasive methods when communicating with staff and players, as their head coach.

"We made a massive investment in young players like Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Damian de Allende, Siya Kolisi, Scarra Ntubeni and several others. It will be wrong to expose them as well as team management to such risk," said Wakefield.

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Chief executive Rob Wagner and chairperson Sam Dube were also reported to be against the appointment of Mitchell.

"As much as I would have liked to have adhered to Gert's request, I remained hesitant. I believe in Gert's knowledge of the game and I let him follow the lead," Wakefield added. "However, there comes a time when a request needs to the denied for valid reasons."

Mitchell experienced a turbulent ride with staff and players at both the Lions and the Western Force. His tenure with the All Blacks between 2001-03 was also pitted with controversy because of his testy relationship with New Zealand Rugby administrators. He was replaced by Graham Henry after the All Blacks lost 22-10 to the Wallabies in the 2003 World Cup semifinal in Sydney in late 2003.

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Mitchell still lives in South Africa.

Fleck has been Allister Coetzee's assistant for the last few years and coached the Western Province under-21 side to the national title this year.

Meanwhile, the Western Force have signed Manawatu outside back  Semisi Mesirewa for next year. It has been reported that the 23-year-old, who was born in Fiji before moving to New Zealand to advance his rugby career, was also approached by the Chiefs, Hurricanes and Highlanders.

 - Stuff

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