Pumas 'envy' the Kings
Pumas 'envy' the KingsSHARE
The Pumas may have secured their place in the Currie Cup competition, but they are still worse of than the Eastern Province Kings.
This is the view of outspoken Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse, who told this website their newfound status as a Premier Division team has not brought them any more privileges than the Kings – a First Division outfit who will be given a free passage into Super Rugby in 2016 and may even be given a similar guarantee on the domestic stage if the South African Rugby Union can convince the province to vote for an expanded eight-team Currie Cup competition.
The lack of dept at the Nelspruit-based outfit was evident when they lost 6-31 to a near full-strength Cheetahs team in a pre-season outing last weekend.
Injuries and call-ups to the Lions Super Rugby team robbed Stonehouse of a sizable chunk of his frontline selections.
And there is no indication that he will be able to rush in some top-flight reinforcements ahead of the Currie Cup competition later this year.
"You still require money to get players and we don't have the luxury of a lot of money," Stonehouse told this website.
"People always think the moment you play [in the] Currie Cup [competition] the money automatically starts rolling in, but that is not true."
He added that sponsors are often very cautious, worrying that new teams will suffer mostly big defeats in South Africa's premier domestic competition – where the big guns have the luxury of Super Rugby experience to fall back on.
The Pumas may have been convincing winners in their two-match promotion-relegation series against Griquas last year, but that won't guarantee them success against the big guns – the five Super Rugby franchises.
"I would have loved to have been in the Kings' situation, knowing that come 2016 you will play Super Rugby," he said of his struggles to lure some big names to Nelspruit.
"That gives you a long-term negotiating option, where you can get people to sponsor you," Stonehouse said of the Kings' ability to use the Super Rugby carrot.
"And not knowing if you are in or out [of the Currie Cup competition] every year makes it even more difficult [to get sponsors].
"That is why it is vital to ensure you finish in the top five and that is our goal [for the season].
"We realise it is a tall order, but that is what we are aiming for – if you achieve that, you know you have sponsors that will stand by you in the years to come."
Stonehouse said they lost out in the recruitment race because the promotion-relegation games were so late in the year, which meant they missed the recruitment window and lost out on a number of big names.
"Griquas managed to get away with it for years, by playing in the Currie Cup [competition], which allowed them to lure players for less money.
"The Kings have the advantage that they can use the Super Rugby [in 2016] carrot."
The Pumas mentor said players who are fourth and fifth in the pecking order at the big unions must realise that by playing at the Pumas they could get better exposure and a chance to improve their standing with bigger unions.
"If players come to us and we do well, the unions will lure those players [with more money].
"Players don't realise that, they just want to say they are at the Bulls or Stormers, even though they don't get game time."
By Jan de Koning