Include Pumas in Franchise Cup, says Jimmy Stonehouse after win over Bulls
CAPE TOWN - Any Bulls side is a good one, and now that the Pumas have knocked over Jake White’s team, they have proven that they should also be included in the upcoming Franchise Cup.
That was how coach Jimmy Stonehouse felt after watching the Mpumalanga outfit run in six impressive tries to clinch a 44-14 victory at the Mbombela Stadium on Sunday.
While it didn’t improve the Pumas’ Currie Cup log position – they ended sixth with 17 points, nine more than the bottom-placed Griquas, and three victories – it gave Stonehouse and his team a sense of achievement that they could finally beat one of the established franchises.
Even though White fielded a weakened team made up of wider squad members and Under-21 players, the Pumas still produced an enterprising brand of rugby that saw the forwards dominate and flyhalf Devon Williams dictate play with his clever decision-making.
“It was a season of many low points, which we had hoped would be highlights, but we couldn’t pull it through. This time, luckily we pulled it off. Even though many people are saying it’s a weakened Bulls team, there were still 14 guys who played against the Lions last week – plus the four guys who have played the whole season,” Stonehouse said afterwards.
“So, I am pleased. If you look at the Bulls’ structures, they won the Under-21 Currie Cup this season, so the guys coming up are unbelievably good. I think our guys played good rugby. It doesn’t matter: any Bulls side is a good side.
“You can’t compare our depth to theirs. That is where it gets difficult for us, especially if we get injuries, and that is how we get into trouble and why it is difficult to play a double round in this competition.
“But we really gave it our all this season, and I hope SA Rugby sees it, and that we are included in this Franchise Cup that will now start in five weeks’ time.”
While SA Rugby have yet to announce any details about the Franchise Cup, it has been reported that it is a tournament that will fill the gap between the end of the Currie Cup, which will be completed with the final on January 30, and the start of the new PRO16 Rainbow Cup, which kicks off on April 17.
The Franchise Cup was initially mooted to be played between the Bulls, Sharks, Lions, Stormers and Cheetahs, but now Stonehouse hopes that the Pumas will be added as well.
IOL Sport understands that Saru director of rugby Rassie Erasmus will sign the final documents to confirm the Franchise Cup participants on Wednesday.
“We are going to take a two-day break – it looks like it’s going to be a total lockdown. Then coming back, hopefully we are in that Franchise Cup, because I cannot see the SA Cup (for the provincial unions) is going to happen,” Stonehouse said.
“I think we are going to play in the Franchise Cup, and it looks like the EP Kings will also join there – I don’t know. I’ve heard a lot of rumours. Franchise Cup, then a rest, then the Currie Cup again.”