Jimmy Stonehouse (Gallo Images)
- Pumas mentor Jimmy Stonehouse has quashed any Lions hopes of rescheduling their Super Rugby Unlocked fixture, which was affected by Covid-19.
- The Lions are understood to have suggested a Tuesday kick-off, but the Lowvelders have suggested the timing might be disingenuous as the Johannesburgers had a bye this week.
- Lions chief Rudolf Straeuli insists it’s not a major issue, but firmly believes the match can be accommodated.
Jimmy Stonehouse, the Pumas’ director of rugby, has poured cold water on the Lions’ suggestion to fulfil their postponed Super Rugby Unlocked fixture next week.
The initial meeting at Ellis Park last weekend was badly disrupted by three positive Covid-19 tests among the Lowvelders’ playing group, which necessitated the quarantining of seven players in total.
Saturday’s match against the Bulls at Loftus, won 21-5 by the home side, was merely completed after SA Rugby rescheduled the game a day later.
With the Pumas’ stocks replenished to a large extent, the Lions are understood to have mooted a Tuesday kick-off.
“We can’t fulfil (the Lions) fixture,” said Stonehouse in the aftermath of their worthy appearance in Pretoria.
“It can’t be expected of a team like us to play three matches in eight days, it’s impossible. People should get me wrong, we want to play and say thanks to our fans and sponsors. But we need to be realistic.
“The Lions sent correspondence asking if we’d be willing to play on Tuesday. But one must remember that they had a bye this week. Must we also wait for a bye week and then ask for a postponed game to be played? How will they then feel about having to play three games in essentially a week?
“The answer will surely be ‘no’.”
Lions chief Rudolf Straeuli confirmed to Sport24 that he’d “fulfilled all the formal requirements” for requesting the re-playing of both their matches against the Cheetahs and Pumas, even though SA Rugby has already ruled the Cheetahs fixture a draw.
“I don’t think we should make too much of a fuss about this issue, but we are of the opinion that we can still find a way to play those matches,” he said.
“These are extraordinary times and we can help each other. We’ve seen big events like The Masters postponed and then still completed. What’s preventing us, other than player welfare? If there’s a possibility to find some balance to the respective logs, especially when some teams have played more than others, can’t be at least try?
“Naturally we can’t force any of our opponents to fulfil a postponed fixture.”
Stonehouse believes SA Rugby perhaps erred in declaring disrupted fixtures as draws and favours the system adopted by other countries in awarding outright victories.
“If you asked me, the Lions should’ve been awarded five log points and us nothing. The Lions should’ve conceded the match points to the Cheetahs in that fixture,” he said.
“With our preparations disrupted by eight players being unavailable before the Bulls game, can we play three days later? No. Rather give the log points. Nonetheless, SA Rugby has set a precedent with the two-points-each system. That’s how it will have to be applied going forward.”