Simon Westraadt of the Pumas. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
Simon Westraadt of the Pumas. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Pumas need a win against Griquas to propel them into Currie Cup play-offs

By Morgan Bolton Time of article published Aug 26, 2021

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JOAHNNESBURG - It would not be an over-exaggeration to state that Saturday’s Currie Cup encounter against the Griquas in Kimberley (kick-off 2.30pm) might be the Pumas’ biggest game in recent memory, and quite possibly, in their history.

Beating the Griquas will propel the Nelspruit-based side into the play-offs, cancelling out any last gasp permutations the chasing Western Province can conjure up when they play the Sharks later on Saturday evening.

“It’s a great opportunity for our union to make history in the Currie Cup to be, for the first time, in the semis,” said the Pumas Devon Williams on Wednesday at the launch of the Carling Black Label Championship Match in Houghton.

“It’s going to be a dog-fight up there in Kimberley but we have proven throughout the campaign that we can compete against the bigger guys. Now, it is just a question of getting there. Both the Griquas and ourselves see this as a quarter-final this weekend and I think both unions won’t want to leave it up to the Shark beating Province to ensure our place in the semis.”

It would also not be an overstatement to declare that the Pumas have, in recent months, reinvented themselves to a certain degree. Always considered a team that relies heavily on their forward pack to grind down their opponents and secure victory, the men in pink have now added the extra dimension of a dynamic backline.

It is a facet of play that the Pumas have been working hard on to introduce and refine, as revealed by Williams.

“The Pumas have always been known for bully-rugby,” said the full-back, “taking it up up-front but I think we have gone past that.

“The forwards can’t play 80 minutes alone and the backs have to start stepping up and that is where we have started getting balance. If the forwards are in the game, we get better ball and then we get to show our talents as the backs. Our kicking game, as well, has been paying dividends for us. As the backs we have been stepping up to the plate to complement our forwards.”

With this evolved philosophy instilled within the team, it is only natural that a winning culture has also begun to develop in tandem.

“As soon as you start winning, you create a culture that everyone wants to be a part of,” Williams agreed.

“It is the ultimate goal for any squad to get a winning mindset and getting everyone to buy into it, whether you are playing or not. So, wherever we got our players, we told them you are in this environment now, you have to step up and if things get tough, just back the guys on the field and we will have your back. When you have that camaraderie amongst each other, things get easier on the field.”

It is not without the realm of possibility that both the Griquas and Pumas find themselves in the play-offs on Sunday morning, and although this weekend’s encounter between the two teams will help decide the fate of both teams, the Sharks and WP, there is a small part of Williams that hopes this will be the case.

Said the 29-year-old: “It’s going to be a humdinger of a match, it’s not going to be easy,”

“I actually hope both teams go through to the semis, we are deserving of it. I don’t think anyone gave us a chance and now we are here. I have to go with my team, I’m backing them all the way. It’s not going to be by far – between four and eight points.”

@FreemanZAR

IOL Sport

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