Pumas determined to prove a point
The Pumas may have been 'competitive' last week, but feel they have plenty to prove in the return leg of their promotion-relegation series against Griquas.
The Pumas may have been 'competitive' last week, but they feel they have plenty to prove in the return leg of their promotion-relegation series against Griquas.
Heading into the second match with just a two-point deficit, the Pumas could be forgiven if they expressed some confidence about their chance of claiming Griquas' place in the Currie Cup Premier Division.
Even with the game being at their home ground in Nelspruit, Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse was claiming the underdog tag.
In fact he went as far as suggesting they have to make some considerable improvements if they are to achieve their goal of playing Currie Cup rugby next year.
"We believe we can be at that [Currie Cup] level, but we are not close [to that level] yet," Stonehouse told this website ahead of Friday's second match of the series.
"We have to go out there still and prove it, to ensure we get up to that [Currie Cup] standard - we are still fighting for the right to play there at the top [Premier Division]."
The Pumas mentor said his team took some valuable lessons away from their 19-21 loss to Griquas in Kimberley last week - a game where the Pumas had a 13-0 lead, before an injury-time try by the home side snatched victory from their grasp.
"We have gained confidence with the realisation that despite the high penalty count and the lack of possession, as well as the yellow card [issued to Lubabalo Mtyanda late in the match], we know that if we shaped up a bit we can do much better," he told this website.
"We do feel we belong there," Stonehouse said, adding: "There is a lot we look at, but there is no doubt we are determined to get the win to play at the top [Currie Cup] level."
Having taken note of the rumours of a re-vote to enlarge the Currie Cup to an eight-team competition next year, Stonehouse insisted the Pumas want to earn their place in the top flight by winning the two-match series and not having to rely on a boardroom decision later in the year.
"We have done so well, but few people attach any value to the First Division," he said of his team's unbeaten run in 2013, which ended with last week's loss in Kimberley.
"Where we have come from, with the move [of their headquarters from Witbank to Nelspruit] I don't think we've done too badly.
It will be a perfect season if we can win and move up to the Premier Division.
"That is by what we measure our season, to get to the Premier Division, because First Division doesn't get any acknowledgement in South African rugby."
The Pumas must win by at least three points and prevent Griquas from getting more than one bonus point.
However, should the teams be level on log points (Griquas have four for the win and the Pumas one bonus point), then net points difference (points for and points against) come into play.
Should the teams still be equal, the team who scores the most tries in the two matches will be promoted. Should it still be equal, the status quo remains.
By Jan de Koning