WELLINGTON - Former All Blacks coach John Mitchell has quit as head coach of struggling English club Sale Sharks after just one month to return to South Africa for personal reasons.
Sale announced Mitchell's departure on Saturday, a day after they scored just their second win in the Premiership, against Worcester.
In a statement, club owner Brian Kennedy expressed regret that 48-year-old Mitchell had ended a stint which began in late November, having worked for them previously as a consultant.
"John was brought in on a consultancy basis with a view to the possibility of being employed in a longer term position within Sale Sharks," Kennedy said.
"He has had to return to South Africa for personal reasons which we respect.
"We are grateful for his valuable and insightful contributions albeit for a shorter term than envisaged." Mitchell was scheduled to return to the Golden Lions in Johannesburg for a short term stint in February, to work in an advisory capacity on new head coach Johan Ackermann's backroom staff.
Mitchell has endured a chequered career since being ousted as All Blacks coach following their failed 2003 World Cup campaign.
The relationship with his players at Australian Super Rugby franchise the Western Force became fractious before he finished his contract early to take up a head coaching role at rich but struggling South African outfit the Lions in 2010.
After some initial domestic success, the players became disillusioned with Mitchell and a falling out led to the coach's suspension earlier this year.
The matter was legally resolved but Mitchell lost the coaching post to Ackermann and was handed a technical adviser role.