Former ABs coach John Mitchell backs Lions to win Super Rugby
Former All Blacks coach John Mitchell believes the Lions' drive to send off departing coach Johan Ackermann with a Super Rugby title could be enough to get the job done.
Ackermann is heading to Gloucester when the competition wraps up next month, and winning a maiden title is on the cards after the Lions finished the regular season as the top seed.
Mitchell, a former Lions coach and now the Bulls' director of rugby, told Supersport.com the Kiwi Super teams would underestimate the emotional drive of the Lions, which could lead to their downfall if they have to play in Johannesburg.
"Most definitely. They've presented themselves with a great opportunity by finishing top of the log," Mitchell, who coached the All Blacks between 2001-2003, said.
"I'm not sure if the other teams understand the emotional motivation with Ackers leaving after this tournament and the fact that they fell short last year at the last hurdle.
"They will be highly motivated and have a huge amount of desire. If they can keep their composure and focus on their processes and not get too emotionally committed to the outcome, I think they will finish off well," he told Supersport.com
The Lions haven't played a Kiwi team all season and trailed the previously unbeaten Crusaders heading into last weekend's final regular season round.
However, the Crusaders' loss to the Hurricanes at the weekend, and the Lions' comfortable win against the Sharks, was enough for the Lions to nab the top spot.
They're now guaranteed home advantage throughout the playoffs, beginning with a quarterfinal against the Sharks on Sunday morning (NZT).
Should they win, they will host the winner of Friday night's quarterfinal between the Hurricanes and Brumbies in the semifinals.
In addition to predicting the Lions would fare well in the playoffs, Mitchell said there would be positives from the Kings and the Cheetahs exiting the competition as Super Rugby downsizes from 18 to 15 teams next year.
Mitchell was coaching the Lions in 2013 when they were forced to sit out the season in favour of the Southern Kings.
"It's not nice to exit a competition. If you look at my experience with the Lions where I was hoping to debate whether people were transparent enough about what was happening to us.
"But, ultimately when you look at it, it was probably one of the best thing that happened to the Lions in the way they could clean out and get their wage bill way under R30 million (NZ$3m) and start again with a young committed group that wasn't targeted by the market," he told Supersport.com.
"It is only now they're starting to be targeted by the market. There is actually a lot of good things to happen from coming out of Super Rugby."