Wed, 02 Dec 2020

It's rather tempting to label the Pumas' Super Rugby Unlocked outing against the Stormers in Nelspruit on Friday as a potential mismatch.

Even with Steven Kitshoff and Scarra Ntubeni yanked out of the Capetonians' squad due to Covid-19 protocols, the plucky hosts still have to contend with a line-up that includes six World Cup-winning Springboks.

Yet, in his own effervescent and frank manner, Pumas director of rugby, Jimmy Stonehouse, has preached his players strike a balance optimism and realism.

"As simple as it sounds, I've told the players to just be relaxed," he said.

"You can't ignore the gulf in depth between the two sides. The Stormers are an unbelievable team and that's the way things are. We're not going to get far if we're going to start banking on miracles."

As a result, Stonehouse has come up with a simple plan.

Teams: Pumas

15 Devon Williams, 14 Neil Maritz, 13 Erich Cronje, 12 Wayne van der Bank, 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Eddie Fouche, 9 Ginter Smuts, 8 Jeandre Rudolph, 7 Willie Engelbrecht, 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Pieter Jansen van Vuren (captain), 4 Darrien Landsberg, 3 Ruan Kramer, 2 AJ le Roux, 1 Morgan Naude

Substitutes: 16 Simon Westraadt, 17 Liam Hendricks, 18 Heath Backhouse, 19 Phumzile Maqondwana, 20 Dian Badenhorst, 21 Niel Marais, 22 Ali Mgijima, 23 Ig Prinsloo

Stormers

15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Edwill van der Merwe, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Ernst van Rhyn, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Leon Lyons

Substitutes (from): 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Kwenzo Blose, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Nama Xaba, 21 Jaco Coetzee, 22 Godlen Masimla, 23 Michal Haznar, 24 Tim Swiel, 25 Tristan Leyds

"Friday is going to be the type of game where my players' best is going to be good enough," he said.

"Not a lot of people are going to believe we stand a chance, so it's no use dwelling on something like that. If you're going to give your all, your at the very least guaranteed of emerging from the game with your reputation intact and even enhanced.

"And who knows, perhaps then there might be a surprise or two."

The Pumas showed a substantial amount of backbone in beating Griquas last week, overcoming a demoralising opening loss to the Cheetahs as well as the logistics of having to charter a plane to Kimberley on the morning of the match.

Armed with some confidence from a "victory that came at the right time" as well as the dangling carrot of playing arguably the best side in the country, the Lowvelders won't lack dedication.

"This is what my players live for. As intimidating as it might be for some of them to play opposition of this calibre - we haven't played against full-strength big unions for many years - it's also a wonderful challenge," said Stonehouse.

"In games of this nature, it's about determining the players in our group that can make the step up. That's what we're here for, we want to give underrated or forgotten players the chance to shine.

"If you stand out from the rest against a quality side like the Stormers, you're going a long way to making a name for yourself. Isn't that what it's about in the end?"

Source: News24

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