Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse says it would be a ‘big opportunity’ to take over from John Mitchell at the Bulls. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Mitchell recently left his role as the Bulls executive of rugby, and Super Rugby coach, to become England’s defence coach.
Speculation has been rife about the union’s shortlist of potential replacements, which includes Stonehouse, Western Province head coach John Dobson and former Bok lock Victor Matfield, who has had stints as an assistant coach at the Bulls and Lions. Former Bok scrumhalf Fourie du Preez has ruled himself out of contention.
Stonehouse has openly expressed an interest in the position, but told SARugbymag.co.za on Tuesday that he was still waiting to hear from the Bulls.
‘It’s a big opportunity, but there’s been no contact. The only updates I get about the job is through the media,’ Stonehouse said. ‘If it comes to nothing, I’m more than happy to stick with the Pumas and work on making them a better team.’
The Pumas are set to face the Golden Lions in the last round of the regular season in what will be a straight shootout for a place in the Currie Cup semi-finals.
‘It’s a home game for us, but because it’s more like a quarter-final, there will be added pressure on both teams,’ said Stonehouse.
‘The Lions’ Springbok players are back and available for selection and because they also need to win, I think the coach will pick the best team to play against us. We’ve prepared for that possibility and now our boys just need to go out and execute. Hopefully, the result goes our way.’
Stonehouse added that while the Pumas were crowned Provincial Rugby Challenge champions earlier this year, and are in with a chance to secure a Currie Cup semi-final berth, he is not completely happy with their performances.
‘We won the Rugby Challenge, but we had to build on that in this Currie Cup. We didn’t and have only won two of our five games.
‘Except for the Western Province game, there were a couple of matches [against the Blue Bulls and Sharks] that we could have won, but lost. I’m not happy that we couldn’t get one more bonus point out of each of those game, because it would’ve made a massive difference to the playoff scenario.
‘Overall I’m not happy with our campaign and season as a whole. That’s why I’d like to win against the Lions and go as far as possible in the Currie Cup. It can turn our season around.’
Stonehouse, though, is adamant that the departure of his predecessor Brent Janse van Rensburg after their successful Rugby Challenge campaign, had no influence on the Pumas’ change in fortunes.
‘I’ve been part of the team since February. I was on the field the whole time, I was there during the Rugby Challenge, so taking over just eight days before the start of the Currie Cup wasn’t a major issue. We just carried on like we did before.’
Photo: Manus van Dyk/Gallo Images