Durban — Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse believes his team’s stunning defeat of the Sharks in Durban has made a statement that his players must be given another tournament in which to compete.
Stonehouse says the Pumas (and Griquas) effectively are in a pre-season mode for most of the year before their only competition, the Currie Cup.
“It's tough for the guys sometimes at the Pumas, and what we're doing here is to say to SA Rugby: ‘Just give us an opportunity,’” Stonehouse said.
"We cannot play URC (United Rugby Championship) or those competitions because we don't have the money, but just give us something — another competition — so that we don't have another seven months of pre-season and so that we can get another sponsor to invest in us.
“That's what we're trying to create.”
A big talking point regarding the Sharks was the decision to rest their main Currie Cup team for the fixture against Western Province two weeks ago, a decision that backfired according to coach Joey Mongalo.
But Stonehouse says he doesn’t have the luxury of the options that were in front of Mongalo.
"I'm very proud of these kids. They're just amazing and they have fought week after week," Stonehouse said. “We don't have the depth to change players. They just keep on going and it's amazing to see the way we fought out there tonight.
"We just hit them back over and over again. That's pure heart and belief."
Stonehouse said that the adversity faced by the Pumas players gives them a special bond.
"We've got the belief to win, and it doesn't matter if it's home or away," he said. "It's just the rugby followers that don't give us a chance because we're a small union. But week in and week out we pitch up and play a good brand of rugby.
"It's about showing out there that we belong somewhere. I practice and preach this with the players and I tell them that if the Pumas win, they will go somewhere. If they have a belief that they're brilliant and want to play selfishly, they will go nowhere.
"I think that's the greatest thing. At the end of this season, Tinus de Beer is going to Wales, Ali Mgijima is going to the Cheetahs, and Diego Appollis to the Sharks. Everybody is going, just like last year."
Stonehouse praised the work ethic of his players, saying they deserved their shot at making history again when they play the Cheetahs in the final.
"I think it's the toughness. We really train hard, but it's also the discipline," Stonehouse said.