VIDEO: Pumas ready to start 'rebuilding process' again
Pumas coach James Stonehouse said his team is already ‘planning’ for another post-season exodus.
Speaking after their heartbreaking 17-25 loss to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein at the weekend, the sincere coach said they always expect to lose a large chunk of their resources every year.
This year it includes injured tighthead prop Ignatius Prinsloo (Sharks), star flyhalf Marthinus de Beer (Cardiff), Aliqhayiya Mgijima (Cheetahs), Diego Appollis (Sharks) and Sebastian de Klerk (Bulls) – just some of the positions he has to find replacements for in the off-season.
“Obviously we will start all over again,” Stonehouse told @rugby365com.
“We will always lose players,” he added.
He said regardless of the competitions they play in, they remain a shop window for teams with more money.
“It creates an opportunity for a player to go overseas and earn more money to look after his family.”
He said they are still talking to a few players, who are still hoping to get offers from teams outside Nelspruit.
“Luckily we planned for this [to start over again] and we have people in place to fill those vacancies.
“You always plan ahead,” the Pumas coach said.
Stonehouse was full of praise for the Cheetahs, who won South Africa’s premier domestic title for the first time since 2019 – when they dethroned 2022 champions, the Pumas, with a 25-17 victory in a brilliant Final in the Free State capital.
The Cheetahs deserved their win and although the magnificent Pumas once again demonstrated their intensity and resilience, Hawies Fourie’s team always had the answers and never seemed to be taken entirely out of their comfort zone.
Stonehouse described as ‘amazing’ his team’s second-consecutive appearance in a Final – despite losing this time around.
(WATCH as Pumas coach James Stonehouse explains to @king365ed how his team will cope with another post-season exodus…)
“We lost four guys at the end of last season,” he told a post-match media briefing – in reference to fullback Tapiwa Mafura, along with replacements Jeandre Rudolph and Daniel Maartens, who all starred for the Cheetahs in the 2023 Final.
The Pumas also lost a number of key players to injuries – hookers Eduan Swart and Llewellyn Classen, who both played in the winning Final in 2022, along with backs, Sebastian de Klerk and Jade Stighling.
“For us to have lost those guys early in the season was a massive blow,” Stonehouse said.
“For us to come back [from that][ and still play in the Final is amazing.
“They didn’t perform like we wanted them to perform [in the Final], but [Andrew] Kota [only] came in three weeks ago and you could see the pressure [got to him] a little bit.
“Those are the things we have to change and the advantage the Cheetahs had – having played in the EPCR [Challenge Cup] where there is a lot more pressure.”
He reiterated an earlier statement that they need another competition – other than the Currie Cup – to bring some more players through for the ‘bigger’ unions.
“If Griquas and the Pumas die, a lot of talent will be lost [to South Africa],” Stonehouse added.
* Picture credit: Johan Orton