There’s plenty of excitement among the players and they’re so up for the challenge, should it all materialise.
They’ll be the underdogs and some will probably also call them whipping boys, but that suits them just fine. In fact, they’ll hopefully thrive by being labelled as such.
Those are the views of Griquas head coach Scott Mathie, who’s in the process of preparing his team for a possible domestic Currie Cup-like competition starting at the end of August or early September.
If SA Rugby get the green light from the government then the four Super Rugby sides, Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers, the two Pro14 teams, the Cheetahs and Kings, and the two other franchises, the Griquas and Pumas, could play each other home and away until early December.
The spread and threat of the coronavirus has forced all the rugby-playing countries around the world to look internally for some kind of competition and it looks likely a local Currie Cup type competition will, hopefully, be staged soon.
The eight teams returned to official on-field, non-contact training this week, and Mathie and the Pumas’ operations manager, Marius van Rensburg, said their players could not wait to take on the ‘big boys’ of Super Rugby and the Pro14.
“Every rugby player wants to measure himself against the best and with all the local Springboks set to play, these guys here at Griquas will get a chance to do that,” said Mathie, who took over as head coach in Kimberley at the end of last year but has yet to coach his team for a match.
“There’s plenty of excitement among the players and they’re so up for the challenge, should it all materialise.”
Van Rensburg said of the Pumas players: “It should be an exciting competition and all my guys are looking forward to measuring themselves against the best, especially the Springbok players.”
While South Africa’s ‘big six’ have played some rugby this year – in Super Rugby and the Pro14 – the Griquas and Pumas haven’t played any rugby at all.
Their last action was in the Currie Cup in September last year, with their pre-season for the 2020 campaign starting in November.
While Griquas and the Pumas were preparing for the start of the SuperSport Challenge in April, a halt was called to all rugby worldwide in March.
“It’s been a long wait for the guys; they’ve virtually been in pre-season since November; waiting and waiting. They’re hungry to play,” said Mathie.
“They’re in good condition and have a desire and hunger to showcase their skills against some of the best in the country.
“You must remember a lot of the guys here at Griquas, and also at the Pumas, were perhaps overlooked elsewhere so they have a point to prove. They’ll be up for the competition.”
Van Rensburg said that because all eight of the teams earmarked to play in the local competition came “out” of lockdown at the same time this week, everything would be equal and the same going into the new-look competition.
“Our players are running fit, but they’re maybe not as strong as they should be because many of them weren’t able to do any gym training in the (hard) lockdown, because of a lack of equipment.
“I think it’ll also take a while for the ball skills to come back because you only learn about split decision-making when in a contact situation, and doing contact sessions may be some way off.
“But, all the teams are in the same position; it is now a level playing field.”
Mathie said that the team that would adapt the quickest and best to the new laws around training and playing will have an advantage in the competition, and that Griquas could be something of a surprise package.
“The environment will be one that favours adaptability. Kimberley doesn’t have the bells and whistles like the other cities have. We’re a small union, with just two coaches, we don’t have the resources of the other teams, and we’re always having to adapt and make do with what we have.
“It could play in our favour.”