Mitchell praise for cool-headed Lions
October 29, 2011
The Golden Lions lift the Currie Cup following their victory over the Natal Sharks © Getty Images
Golden Lions coach John Mitchell heaped praise on his side after they recorded the most emphatic Currie Cup Final victory since 1980 with a 42-16 thrashing of Natal Sharks at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
The impressive victory, over the defending champions, was the Golden Lions' first outright Currie Cup victory on home soil since 1950 and their first title since 1999 and follows defeats in the 2002 and 2007 season finale. The winning margin of 26 points is second only to the Blue Bulls' 39-9 victory over Western Province 21 years ago.
The Golden Lions have been the pace-setters all season and built their victory in the final on a superb defensive performance, while they also used their attacking opportunities to outscore the visitors by three tries to one. Golden Lions fly-half Elton Jantjies contributed 24 points and was named Man of the Match, while Jaco Taute scored a try and added a crucial long-range penalty goal. Michael Killian and Patric Cilliers scored the home team's two other tries. For The Sharks, Willem Alberts crossed for a try that was converted by Frederic Michalak, who also added three penalty goals.
Mitchell lauded his team's calmness under pressure as one of the reasons for their great victory. Late in the first half Springbok prop CJ van der Linde was sin-binned for dangerous play, but the Lions did not concede a single point while they were playing with only 14 men.
"When we were down to 14 men, we remained calm and the guys didn't drop in their performance. This team also kept their composure after the Sharks' try, which I thought was a dubious decision. I'm very proud of how the team handled those incidents very well as we adapted to the situation," said Mitchell. "These past few weeks have been phenomenal. The fact that we played in front of a packed Coca-Cola Park showed how well the guys were playing, and the support has been great.
"People assumed I was crazy to take the job as Lions coach, but I love a challenge and my dream was to restore the pride that was once here in Johannesburg. I know it's been a frustrating number of years for all Lions fans, who probably had to turn the telly upside down to see their team on top of the log.
"The results weren't going the team's way and that hurts because supporters have an emotional connection to their team. I'm very happy with what has been achieved over the last 16 months."
Sharks coach John Plumtree praised the Lions for a superb performance and acknowledged his side had been beaten by the better side. "We were outplayed in every area of the game and were beaten by the better team. They were backed by a massive crowd, they attacked and defended well, and when they got in front it was always going to be difficult for us," said Plumtree, who coached Natal to Currie Cup titles in 2008 and 2010. "They had created a lot of momentum since the start of this competition and we weren't able to stop them today. I think they were probably the more cohesive side."
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