Pumas to unleash 'new' team in season opener
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse is eager to see how his ‘new-look’ team will shape up against what is expected to be the Bulls’ United Rugby Championship combination.
The Pumas host the Bulls in the opening match of the Currie Cup competition in Nelspruit on Friday.
Having lost more than 10 players from the side that came within a late penalty of qualifying for last season’s Currie Cup semifinals, Stonehouse has started the annual process of rebuilding his team.
“It is really tough to lose so many players,” the Pumas coach told @rugby365com, adding: “The real challenge was that there was so little time ahead of the start of the Currie Cup.”
Top of the list of departures is the captain and burly lock Pieter Jansen van Vuren – one of four players who signed contracts with the Lions to play in the URC.
The other former Pumas players who now call Ellis Park their home are Morgan Naude (prop), Matt More (centre) and Ginter Smuts (scrumhalf).
Originally on loan to the Lions, the quartet signed contracts at Ellis Park for the next two years.
Stonehouse said he expects the Bulls to use Friday’s Currie Cup as a “warm-up” for the resumption of their URC campaign next week – when the Bulls host the Stormers at Loftus Versfeld.
With the URC teams boasting substantial more depth than their ‘country cousins’, Stonehouse will look to a few new recruits to bolster his squad.
“Every year teams like the Pumas and Griquas lose a host of players and then have to rebuild.
“We have become accustomed to it.”
In contrast, the URC franchises – apart from their substantial financial clout – can rely on their junior structures that are always littered with Baby Boks.
“Many of the URC teams’ juniors have already played in the Currie Cup and we don’t have that luxury,”he told @rugby365com.
The Pumas have made a few significant acquisitions – spearheaded by seasoned former Baby Bok and SA Schools start Thinus de Beer, who will start at flyhalf in Nelspruit.
Having started his first-class career in Pretoria with the Bulls, the 25-year-old De Beer played for Griquas for the past two years.
“He will make a big difference,” Stonehouse said, adding: “With Tinus and Eddie Fouche we have two quality flyhalves.”
Other recruits include young scrumhalf Lucky Dlepu, who featured for the Sharks in the Currie Cup Final against the Bulls in September last year.
There is also Robbie Petzer, a 25-year-old flyhalf with Pro 14 experience for the Cheetahs and also a number of Currie Cup games.
Wing Lundi Msenge earned his call-up to the Pumas based on his form for UWC in the Varsity Cup.
Fiery lock Malembe Mpofu is another player who was given a Pumas contract based on his Varsity Cup form in 2021.
Pumas: 15 Devon Williams, 14 Tapiwa Mafura, 13 Sebastain de Klerk, 12 Robbie Petzer, 11 Lundi Msenge, 10 Thinus de Beer, 9 Giovan Snyman, 8 Willie Engelbrecht (captain), 7 Khwezi Mafu, 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Darrien Landsberg, 4 Shane Kirkwood, 3 Ignatius Prinsloo, 2 Eduan Swart, 1 Corne Fourie.
Replacements: 16 Llewellyn Classen, 17 Ruan Kramer, 18 Simon Raw, 19 Malembe Mpofu, 20 Phumzile Maqondwana, 21 Lucky Dlepu, 22 Eddie Fouche, 23 Alwayno Visagie.
Date: Friday, January 14
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit
Kick-off: 19.00 (17.00 GMT)
Referee: Cwengile Jadezweni
Assistant referees: Aimee Barrett-Theron, Local
TMO: Quinton Immelman