Fullback Devon Williams says the Pumas outplayed the stronger unions this season to earn the right to compete for the Currie Cup trophy in Kimberley on Saturday, reports DEVIN HERMANUS.
A new Currie Cup champion will be crowned on Saturday afternoon after a weekend of dramatic semi-final action, where Griquas stunned holders Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria, while the Pumas staged a brilliant late rally to shock the Free State Cheetahs in a pulsating match in Bloemfontein.
Bulls coach Gert Smal said post-match on Friday that the sport’s oldest competition has been devalued due to a lack of player depth in SA contributing to understrength sides selected by the Lions, Sharks and Western Province.
He also complained that the Bulls’ back-to-back title defence was heavily affected this season by constant squad disruptions due to players “coming in and out” while competing in the Currie Cup and Vodacom United Rugby Championship.
But, Pumas No 15 Williams said the men from Nelspruit went toe to toe with Bulls lineups bolstered by big-name stars during URC mid-term breaks, and also accounted for one of just two defeats suffered by the Cheetahs in the penultimate round of league action.
Speaking as the Pumas prepare for a first-ever Currie Cup final outing, he told SA Rugby magazine: “No one actually gave us a chance because everyone sees us as small unions. But both of us being in the final, I think it makes a big statement to the bigger unions. It says that we’re not just walkovers.
“The Cheetahs have the [European] Challenge Cup coming up and they were in the same boat as us and not saying anything about them not deserving it, but the Griquas beat them in the round-robin stages – and us.
“Us and the Griquas getting into the final, I can hear people saying now the Currie Cup is a rip-off, and that is not the case.
“During the Currie Cup, the bigger unions loaded their teams with URC players because they had breaks in between and, now look, we’re still up there. So it can’t speak to the value of the Currie Cup because they had their opportunities to load teams.
“We were in the mix with them all the time and looking at our campaign throughout the Currie Cup, when we played the bigger unions and they loaded their teams, that was some of our best performances.
“So, we’re still pretty excited after Saturday’s win over the Cheetahs, but it’s now back to work and getting ready to get over one more hurdle.”
Williams scored six tries and set up plenty more for his teammates en route to the final, where his appearance will be a career high after his lack of game time during WP’s 2014 Currie Cup-winning campaign.
The Cape-born speedster added: “I had my opportunities [at Province] but also don’t think it was the right time for me.
“But every time since I’ve been at the Pumas and have gone home or played WP, it has been to prove a point by playing my normal game.
“It’s not a sense of showing them what they lost, it’s more to prove to myself that, ‘Listen here, they didn’t want you anymore, so just go show them what you have’. And I think I’ve done that.”