Currie Cup

Blundering to dazzling: Pumas' (forced) patience with Devon Williams pays off

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Pumas' Devon Williams
Pumas' Devon Williams
Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images
  • The Pumas patience with their stand-in flyhalf Devon Williams paid off handsomely as he spearheaded the Lowvelders' brilliant win over the Bulls last weekend.
  • The 28-year-old fullback had been forced into the role following an injury crisis and predictably struggled at times, but Pumas mentor Jimmy Stonehouse hailed his perseverance and skill.
  • Stonehouse also hopes the "amazing" refereeing of Jaco Peyper sets a precedent for continued better officiating in matches involving the so-called smaller teams. 

If one ever needed a reminder that patience is a virtue, Jimmy Stonehouse will happily provide one in the form of Devon Williams.

For weeks the Pumas director of rugby had to grit his teeth after he was forced to switch his enterprising and reliable 28-year-old fullback to the No 10 jersey because of a freakish injury crisis in the position.

And, in all honesty, it was a proper last resort: Stonehouse lost Eddie Fouche, Niel Marais and Theo Boshoff during the domestic programme and even threw 19-year-old Tiaan Botes in at the deep end at Newlands before sticking with Williams.

Appropriately, the "experiment" - if one can even remotely call it that given the circumstances - delivered a glorious coronation in last weekend's 44-14 victory over the Bulls in Nelspruit.

But it was certainly ugly at times, notably when he first had to move into the flyhalf position in the Currie Cup opener against the Sharks in Durban.

"A lot of people initially talked about that Sharks game," Stonehouse said with a grin.

"He made five high-profile errors during that match and four of them led to tries."

There was a flicker of hope when he walked away with the Man-of-the-Match award for an industrious attacking showing against Griquas early last month, but Williams only seemed to really find his feet once Ginter Smuts, his halfback partner, took over the kicking duties.

Last Sunday, the former three-cap Stormer - who scored a try against the Cheetahs in his only Super Rugby start back in 2014 - revelled behind a pack that outplayed their vaunted opponents.

In the 15th minute, Williams skillfully exploited a chasm on defence left by flanker WJ Steenkamp and prop Gerhard Steenekamp, ran a good 45m before chipping over the top and regathering to score.

It was a stunning sequence of individual brilliance.

Ten minutes later, Williams launched the deftest of chips that neatly found flanker Daniel Maartens, who combined with winger Luther Obi to finished off another breakaway try.

And to cap it all off, he scored a brace in the final quarter with the simplest of run-ins.

Stonehouse, typically pithily, was smiling all the way.

"We stuck with Devon and even got stuck in with him," he said.

"But he was really brilliant (against the Bulls) and he deserved it. Devon was really good."

Fittingly, Williams' form and the team's performance dovetailed well too with a referee in Jaco Peyper that, rather belatedly, kept an objective eye on proceedings.

Throughout the season there have been questions asked over whether the smaller lights such as the Pumas and Griquas have been pulling the short straw when it comes to decisions from the men with the whistle.

"I'm so in trouble with the referees nowadays," said Stonehouse with a chuckle.

"Over the last few weeks, we've asked if the referees can just go up to the TMO to check if they're not sure. Jaco is No 1 in the country and you could see it in his performance.

"It's not because we won, it could've gone the other way too, but just the things he picked up on and the things he referred showed his pedigree."  

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