Mitchell’s Lions target Currie Cup Semi-finals

The Lions may be the South African Super rugby side least disrupted by the TriNations at the start of the season yet coach John Mitchell insisted on Tuesday that there is enough talent in the Currie Cup  to make it a cracker of a competition.

“I think it is a misconception about the Springbok situation, ” Mitchell told Sapa.

“There will still be Springboks and former Springboks in the teams we face, and there will be future Springboks. “

On Friday, the Lions start their campaign at home against the Pumas in Johannesburg and – unlike previous years – will consider anything less than a place in the knock-out stages a complete failure.

A possible stumbling block could, however, lie in the union’s boardroom politics which has diverted attention away from the progress of the team.

The Lions and their billionaire investors, Guma TAC, recently parted ways after the coaching staff’s plight for uniformity at management level fell on deaf ears.

Mitchell is adamant that his charges are only concerned with continued improvement on the field and that the main focus is being able to turn continuity in team selection into consistency and results on the field.

“We need to get on with the things that are needed to become a better rugby team,” he said.

“We still have a long way to go. We are physically developing, we are mentally developing and the majority of our critical mass have now experienced a Currie Cup and a Super Rugby campaign.

“It is now a matter of them grabbing even more belief in themselves and also in their team. “

In less than a year, Mitchell has played a central role in transforming the Lions from a group of individuals into a team that is once again willing to risk life and limb for each other.

His attitude towards the introduction of young players has not changed and if the union’s management structure gets its house in order, there is no reason why he should not succeed in producing a number of Springboks.

Looking ahead to his second season at the helm, Mitchell admitted he too will have more confidence this time around.

“I love this competition and I guess last year, when I went into it, I wasn’t sure whether my future was going to be here or whether I was just filling in for Dick (Muir) in the short term. “

Mitchell has in the meanwhile made it clear he will stay with the team for the long run.

He also spoke with great excitement about the work former Bulls coach Nico Serfontein was doing, establishing a well organised junior structure.

“It is important that we look at developing from within and the Currie Cup will provide us with a chance to introduce new players at a new level of rugby.

“Nico is doing a great job and those are all positive signs we need looking ahead.”

The Lions have lost only two players – Butch James and Elton Jantjies – to the Springbok squad which means former Blue Bull Burton Francis (pictured) will most likely wear the number 10 jersey in their opener.

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