Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse has challenged his players to improve defensively ahead of their clash against Western Province in Nelspruit on Friday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Stonehouse recently took back the reins as Pumas head coach after the abrupt departure of Brent Janse van Rensburg.
The handover didn’t seem to disrupt the Pumas to any great effect, as Stonehouse’s charges claimed a convincing 42-19 bonus-point victory against Griquas in round one, followed by a bye in round two.
By contrast, defending champions Western Province had a bye in the opening round but began their title defence with an equally impressive 32-0 thrashing of the Free State Cheetahs in driving rain at Newlands. The result ensured that WP overtook the Pumas at the top of the log based on points difference.
Speaking to SARugbymag.co.za ahead of his side’s home game against WP, Stonehouse said the Cape side’s supreme attack makes them odds-on favourites to retain the Currie Cup title.
‘After watching their dominant performance against Free State, I believe WP are the outright favourites to win this competition. They made their intent quite clear when they travelled to France to go and prepare for this Currie Cup,’ said Stonehouse.
‘We’re obviously up for a big challenge; we’ve prepared well. There are still a few things to iron out in the next couple of training sessions, but our preparation has been good so far and we’re looking forward to hosting a team of WP’s qualify in Mbombela.’
Stonehouse said their last victory meant little heading into this week’s game.
‘I don’t read much into previous games or results. That performance against Griquas is behind us now. There’s no way it’ll have an impact on what happens against WP. For me, the most important thing will be our set-piece play, it has to function 100% if we are to stand a chance of winning.
‘They are able to retain possession for long periods and like to spread the ball, so we expect them to run at us from the outset. We’ll have to be patient on defence. Defensively, we struggled in the last 15 minutes against Griquas, so that’s an area we really have to improve on.’
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