John Mitchell was released from the final year of his contract as head coach of the Western Force Super 15 rugby team to take up an offer with South Africa’s Golden Lions.
Former All Blacks coach Mitchell, who had said he would step down from the Force at the end of the 2011 season, was appointed as the Perth-based team’s inaugural coach in 2006. Richard Graham, Mitchell’s assistant, is in talks to assume the head coaching role next season, RugbyWA said in a statement.
The 46-year-old Mitchell will coach the Lions in both South Africa’s domestic Currie Cup and the Super 15 for the next three seasons after a spell as a consultant with the Johannesburg-based team.
“It has been no secret that we wanted to engage John Mitchell on a longer term basis, but we realised this was always going to be subject to the Western Force agreeing to provide him with a release,” Golden Lions President Kevin de Klerk said in a statement. “We are thankful and appreciative that the Western Force gave us the green light.”
As New Zealand coach, Mitchell had a 100 percent record in seven Tests against the Springboks. He led the All Blacks to 23 wins in 27 matches.