Currie Cup

Emotional Stonehouse celebrates history with champion Pumas: 'I don't have words, I just love this team'

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Jimmy Stonehouse celebrates (Gallo)
Jimmy Stonehouse celebrates (Gallo)

The story of the Pumas winning their first-ever Currie Cup trophy on Saturday is one that will be told for years to come, and the man who orchestrated it all says it is the "greatest goal" he has achieved in his life.

The always passionate Jimmy Stonehouse, a popular figure in South African rugby, has been at the helm of the Pumas for 13 years over two stints dating back to 2008.

At Griqua Park on Saturday, his side was full value for their 26-19 win over the heavily-fancied hosts - Griquas. It is easily the crowning moment in the union's history.

As fans and family flooded the turf in the moments following the final whistle, Stonehouse was swamped, signing autographs, standing for photographs and trying, in between, to celebrate the moment with his players.

Throughout all of it, he wore a smile that will likely not disappear for some time.

"It's amazing," Stonehouse told Sport24.

"When that whistle blew at the end, it was just incredible.

"We try really hard at the Pumas, and for me, this is the greatest goal I've achieved in my whole life. I just want to thank all the coaches for what they brought week in and week out.

"I don't have words for it. Hopefully, my emotions speak for themselves. I just love this team."

Stonehouse did have words for his players, who will now embark on an immediate bus ride back to Nelspruit.

"Every one of them deserves a chance, and rugby is about getting opportunities," said Stonehouse.

"This 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."

Suggestions that the Currie Cup is "dead" or no longer as prestigious as it once was didn't have a place in Kimberley on Saturday, where a passionate, vocal rugby community came out in its masses.

For them, for the players, and for Stonehouse, this meant the world.

"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.

"It gives an opportunity to players - as it did for Ross Cronje, Faf de Klerk, Rosko Specman, Vincent Koch - to get into big unions.

"I'm just sad that there had to be a loser on a day like this, and I feel for them (Griquas)," said Stonehouse.

"10 years ago, I wanted to 'moer' everyone, now I cry every time."

The Pumas will now have three weeks off before they join for pre-season for a potential Toyota Cup, that could also include the likes of Griquas and the Cheetahs.

"I'm contracted until 2026, so I'm not going anywhere soon," Stonehouse said.

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Thu 14 Apr 22 13:00 PM (SAST)
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