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Former Mr Universe finalist finally lifts ultimate weight


Jimmy Stonehouse was overcome with emotion when his Pumas beat Griquas in the Currie Cup final after enduring season after season of coaching young players to excel and then losing them to bigger unions.

NELSPRUIT, SOUTH AFRICA – FEBRUARY 19: Jimmy Stonehouse during the Carling Currie Cup match between Airlink Pumas and Toyota Cheetahs at Mbombela Stadium on February 19, 2022 in Nelspruit, South Africa. Picture: Dirk Kotze, Gallo Images, BackpagePix

Durban – Burly Jimmy Stonehouse came sixth in the 2006 Mr Universe competition after winning the Mr South Africa title the year before, but by far the most satisfying weight he has ever lifted was the Currie Cup at Tafel Lager Park on Saturday after his Pumas had blown the home team off the park.

The 58-year-old stalwart of the game was overcome with emotion when his team had won 26-19 after enduring season after season of coaching young players to excel and then losing them to bigger unions.

But at last, Stonehouse had his day.

ALSO READ: Pumas are Currie Cup champions after epic win in Kimberley

“When that whistle blew at the end, it was just incredible,” he said, wiping tears from his eyes.

“We try really hard at the Pumas, and for me, this is the greatest goal I’ve achieved in my whole life. I don’t have words for it. Hopefully, my emotions speak for themselves. I just love this team.”

Stonehouse said that the players at the smaller unions deserve their chance to show what they can do.

ALSO READ: Kimberley basks in history as hungry Puma’s take the Currie Cup

He said he is losing eight players to URC franchises, including his captain, Willie Engelbrecht (Stormers), who was the Man of the Match, and his star centre, Sebastian de Klerk (Bulls).

“This final must give them those opportunities, and hopefully other unions have seen them and will take them in a year or two. That’s what this game is about.”

Before the match, Stonehouse had heaped derision on claims that a final between Griquas and Pumas indicated that the Currie Cup belonged in a museum, and he said the quality and drama of the final showed the Currie Cup is very much alive.

ALSO READ: Currie Cup final shows the health of SA Rugby, says Bok coach

“This is rugby. What we saw today was rugby,” said Stonehouse. “To see all these people here and have stadiums fully open again is unreal. It was a great game, the people loved it, and the Currie Cup definitely does not belong in a museum.”

Vanquished Griquas coach Pieter Bergh felt that his players had gone into their shells in the final.

“I thought we had stage fright. We have to be honest about that. We didn’t pitch up at the start of the game … There were too many mistakes and errors which put us on the back foot.

“The plan was to not give them line-outs and to kick contestables instead. We got so much reward when we played in Nelspruit from kicking contestables and getting the ball back. But we did not kick one contestable kick in the whole game. So, we didn’t execute our plan.

“We beat the Pumas twice this season and that was because we were tactically very good. Today, there were so many things. They were more physical than us, their defence was better than us, their set-piece was better than us. In all areas of the game, we were second best. But if you don’t pitch up, then you will be second best to everything.

“Maybe with this young squad, this week was too emotional. A home game, all the talk of 1970, there was a lot of chat.

“All credit must go to Jimmy. He deserves it. I think he has done a brilliant job this whole year, the way they’ve come back, beating Cheetahs in the last minute and then to come here and win. He has done amazing work with the Pumas for a very long time.

“Hopefully, I get another chance, but Jimmy and the Pumas deserve this.”

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