Mpumalanga Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse has praised his team’s intensity in their surprise 28-21 victory over the Free State Cheetahs at the Mbombela Stadium after a long time out of the Currie Cup Premier Division.
The Pumas were playing their first game in the top flight since 2011, but they out-scored the Cheetahs by three tries to two and were worthy winners on the opening weekend of Currie Cup action.
“It was our first game up in the Premier Division and the players were obviously a bit tense, but the intensity was brilliant and the guys refused to lay down,” Stonehouse said.
“We were under pressure in the first 10 minutes and it was great to come back the way that we did.”
The Pumas coach is undaunted by the scale of the task ahead of them in the Premier Division and said he expects his team to win at home.
“Playing at home is a great advantage for us, but if we want to make the semi-finals then winning at home is a must, we have to win away from home too. It’s obviously good to start with a win like that at home, but at least getting bonus points away from home is what we’re aiming for,” Stonehouse said.
There has been an outpouring of angst in the Free State recently after the Cheetahs’ dismal SuperRugby performance and new coach Rory Duncan was fielding a largely new-look side in Nelspruit.
“The majority of the side only came together two or three weeks ago, so mistakes were understandable. But we made too many simple mistakes, knocking-on four or five times in the Pumas’ 22. It’s early season though, there’s obviously still a lot of work to do and I wasn’t too disappointed by the effort,” Duncan said.
The Free State coach was heartened by his team’s ability to hang on to possession for long periods, but admitted his side had been dominated by the Pumas in the scrums.
“We battled in the scrums, but we still managed to hang on to possession through numerous phases, a few times we took the ball from our own 10m line to their 22. We had opportunities to win, but mistakes cost us.
“But you have to give credit as well to the Pumas and Jimmy for the way the guys came out, they were fired up. They’re a good side and if you don’t bring your A-game to Nelspruit, you will get caught out,” Duncan said.
“Our scrums obviously went well and we also set up our mauls brilliantly, but we made life difficult for ourselves by losing a couple of lineouts. We also need to play into space a bit more,” Stonehouse said.