Jimmy Stonehouse (Gallo Images)
- Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse held back tears after his troops’ superb second-half showing against the Bulls at Loftus.
- Adding to the emotion is the fact that he once again had to tell his plucky, dedicated group of players that they are worthy of competing at this level.
- Stonehouse hailed the passion of No 8 Willie Engelbrecht, who was outstanding despite the tragedy of his father’s death hours before kick-off.
Jimmy Stonehouse was so proud of his Pumas’ second-half showing against Super Rugby Unlocked champions the Bulls on Saturday that he attended his post-match media conference visibly teary-eyed.
The Lowvelders were indeed a team transformed for the last 40 minutes of the gritty match at Loftus – which ended 21-5 in the hosts’ favour – as they kept Jake White’s troops scoreless while scoring a well-worked try of their own.
“Coming out for the second half and just taking them on with everything we had was one of the most amazing things I’ve seen in a long time,” said Stonehouse, clearly holding back more tears.
The Pumas’ director of rugby made no secret of the emotion that was involved in that showing.
After falling behind 21-0 at half-time, he admitted that his players were close to despair and riddled with self-doubt, an understandable response to a campaign that has been high on dedication and low on reward.
“You know what, you’re constantly ‘fighting’ with the players, consistently trying to show them that they can do this. They can compete at this level,” said Stonehouse.
“It’s difficult to be a so-called smaller team. You get this things where you’re regularly have to prove to the players that they are better than they really think they are. Sometimes it’s tough.
“Standing in that changeroom at half-time and listening to what the players said, I told them straight: ‘Guys, it’s scaring what I’m hearing you say’. Sometimes the things said in a half-time talk is not nice to hear.
“But boy, did they respond superbly.”
One of the more impressive sights was the Pumas pack fronting up to their vaunted counterparts and arguably ending marginally on top at the end of the proceedings.
“We’ll definitely take a lot of heart from that second half ahead of the Currie Cup,” said Stonehouse.
Yet no man exemplified the Pumas’ spirit better than No 8 Willie Engelbrecht.
The 28-year-old bravely decided to still participate a mere hours after he tragically lost his father and former stalwart on the Bulls’ club rugby scene, Buks, in a car accident on Friday night.
And his showing oozed passion as he notably left Bulls star Arno Botha dazed with an immense collision and hand-off.
“Willie’s playing this type of rugby week-in and week-out. It’s unbelievable to see him perform in this manner,” said Stonehouse.
“We’ve worked hard in the past two weeks on him channelling this aggression positively and without conceding penalties. It’s going well with him.
“His decision to play was, frankly, inspirational. I’m pretty sure he told his day today: ‘Dad, I hope you’re proud of what you saw’.”