JOHANNESBURG – In three days’ time the Pumas will kick off their 2019 Currie Cup campaign hoping to improve on their showing in the competition in recent times.
The team from Mpumalanga have promised much, but disappointed in the Currie Cup in the last three years, finishing no higher than fifth last year.
But, they go into this year’s Currie Cup on the back of a good showing in the Rugby Challenge. They won all seven of their games in the North Section and collected a full house of 35 points, but they lost the match that mattered, the final, to Griquas.
Since then they have played a friendly game against the Bulls where a host of fringe players were given a chance to shake off the cobwebs. One of those players was towering 24-year-old lock Le Roux Roets, who is hoping to make a big impression in the Currie Cup this year.
Roets recently returned to the Pumas from Sydney, Australia where he was hoping to make his Super Rugby debut earlier this year. He moved there on the back of good performances last year, but failed to break into the Waratahs’ starting team. It was not the first overseas move that didn’t work out for the 2m tall, 135kg lock.
In 2016 he was offered a chance to join Racing Metro in Paris only to find out that the deal was for him to play for the “development team”, which didn’t help his progress. Disillusioned, he lost his way and put on a few extra kilograms and sought a return to South Africa.
Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse offered Roux a chance to play for the Nelspruit-based team. Now, for the second time, the big lock is back in Pumas colours and hoping to impress when they face the Golden Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Roux and former Western Province rookie prop Wikus Groenewald are the only two new players in the Pumas team since they lost to Griquas in the Rugby Challenge final.
While a match against the Golden Lions would ordinarily be a tough one for Stonehouse and his team, the Lions are a depleted team following Super Rugby, with several players having left the union, others being injured and five more training with the Springboks. And, the last time the teams met, in the Rugby Challenge at Ellis Park in mid-May, the Pumas won 51-33.@jacq_west