Stonehouse for code-swapping Titans
Stonehouse for code-swapping TitansSHARE
Cricket franchise the Titans have entered a team into the George Premier League Sevens, with Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse in charge.
This means that South Africa's three main sporting codes will combine for the first time ever on a South African sporting field in December as the Centurion based cricket brand will join soccer giants Kaizer Chiefs as code hoppers in the tournament, to be held during the weekend of 13-14 December at Outeniqua Park.
It should come as no surprise to find strong rugby links within the Titans, as regular captains AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis both have strong rugby pedigrees, due to the close affinity between rugby and cricket found in most schools.
De Villiers played at flyhalf for the Blue Bulls in the Craven Week tournament of 2002 before pursuing a cricket career and Du Plessis' father Francois was a regular in the midfield of Northern Transvaal in the 1980's.
Their coach Stonehouse not only guided the Pumas to the national First Division title this year, but also coached the SA President’s XV in their IRB Tiblisi Cup victory in Georgia in June.
Stonehouse will probably lean on players from the Pumas to strengthen the Titans squad and could include flyers Rosco Spekman and BlitzBokke squad member JW Bell, as well as the exciting Coenie van Wyk and former Springbok Sevens player Danwell Demas.
According to Northern Titans CEO Jacques Faul, the decision to participate in the George Premier League Sevens was an easy one.
"From a marketing perspective, it was an easy call as we will be able to expose our brand to sports fans outside cricket and outside our normal venues. We liked what we saw at the tournament last year and believe we can benefit interacting with our fans in a different and unique way," Faul said.
They will not be making up numbers either, Faul said.
"From a competitive side of things, we will field a strong squad. Jimmy Stonehouse has proved to be a winning coach over many seasons. You can expect the Titans to be competitive and entertaining, something we strive to achieve when playing cricket as well," he added.
Tournament promoter Willem Strauss described this as a major coup for rugby.
"This is fantastic news. The Titans are one of the biggest cricket brands in South Africa and to expose their fans to rugby opens up a whole new audience. I am very grateful for their support and I am sure they will benefit greatly from this venture," Strauss said.
"With Sevens now an Olympic sport and South Africa strongly pitched as medal contenders at the 2016 Games in Rio, this will further grow the interest in the code and expand the base of players. To have the three top sporting codes – rugby, cricket and soccer – combining on one field will be something special and a fantastic way to bring supporters from the various codes together," Strauss explained.
Kaizer Chiefs played in the inaugural Sevens tournament in the Garden Route last year and their participation proved a huge success, with former Proteas cricketer and Kaizer Chiefs Sevens team manager Makhaya Ntini taking the field in their final match.
The Titans and Kaizer Chiefs aside, the tournament will again assemble some of the best Sevens rugby players in the world, who will be vying to win the R1 million prize money up for grabs.
Defending champions Samurai will be back to try and secure the winning purse but will have to fend off the likes of Super Rugby stars, the Cheetahs, and a new challenger in the form of the Serevi Select, an American-based team run by world Sevens legend Waisale Serevi.
Returning for a second year will be the Blue Bulls, Sharks and the very popular Living Ball team, stacked with former international players.
Now in its second year, this unique tournament will again see some world stars, famous brands and heart-stopping action as Sevens rugby returns to this popular Southern Cape venue.
"This year’s George Premier League Sevens will be bigger and better than last year, with extra teams, new names and faces adding to the already guaranteed top class action on the field," Strauss said.
"We will again have the massive prize money for teams to chase, but will also see the emergence of new faces. Five players from last year’s tournament were picked for the Springbok Sevens team afterwards and four more drafted into the squad, which is testimony of the quality of player that will be on offer."