Mitchell loses Lions coaching job in reshuffle

GERALD IMRAY
Last updated 08:17 24/11/2012
John Mitchell
Getty Images
GONE AGAIN: John Mitchell has was replaced as head coach of the Lions and has now joined the Sale Sharks as director of rugby.

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John Mitchell has been moved to a one-year technical adviser role with South Africa's Lions rugby team, allowing Johan Ackermann to take over permanently as head coach from the controversial former All Black.

The Johannesburg-based team said it reached "a new agreement" with Mitchell after he returned to work from a five-month suspension following allegations of misconduct.

Mitchell's new role would be for a year and the Lions' statement suggested the coach would be moving on after that.

"We would like to thank John for his contribution to this union thus far and wish him well for his other endeavours in the future," team president Kevin de Klerk said on announcing the reshuffle.

Mitchell said his new job would allow him "the chance to consider other associations linked to rugby."

The decision to move Mitchell upstairs was likely taken to avoid him having to work face-to-face with some of the players who instigated an investigation after accusing the New Zealander of misconduct by allegedly treating them harshly and forcing them to train or play with injuries.

Mitchell was this month cleared of any wrongdoing after a long disciplinary process, during which Ackermann took charge of the team in the final stages of the Super 15 and for the entire Currie Cup.

"We are looking forward to the future and believe the new agreement with John is the ideal alternative for the Golden Lions," De Klerk said. "It is a wonderful opportunity for us to utilise John's expertise while offering an up-and-coming coach like Johan the chance to deliver and develop."

The troubled Lions finished last and were removed from the Super 15 for at least a season.

Mitchell has had fractious relationships with players before, leaving Australia's Western Force under a cloud in 2010.

The new deal could free up Mitchell to continue serving as a consultant for English club Sale. The Lions said his agreement with them did not allow him to consult for any other South African teams.

"I am fully committed to helping the Lions and head coach Johan Ackermann in the rebuilding process," Mitchell said. "I have unfinished business with the Lions."

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- AP

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