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Rugby | SuperSport Rugby Challenge

Brent Janse van Rensburg © Gallo Images

Clinical Pumas still wary of the f-word

For those hoping there are magical answers to why unfashionable old iCollege Pumas have gone all the way through to Sunday’s final of the SuperSport Rugby Challenge unbeaten, apparently those will be in short supply.

Like most coaches the Pumas’ Brent Janse van Rensburg probably wouldn’t mind being regarded as the resident magician in Nelspruit after guiding a team that fell at the quarterfinal stage of this competition last year to the Oudtshoorn final.

But his explanation for what has brought them to the winner takes all (R500 000) decider against the Tafel Lager Griquas at the Bridgton Stadium on Sunday is as underwhelming as it makes for blinding logic.

“It’s the time we’ve spent together,” he began. “We arrived here at the end of 2016 and the first year was about putting things in place. Last year’s Currie Cup was where we started finding each other and playing good rugby, and the players could see that we could compete.

“We just had time and everyone in the playing group became familiar, and that rhythm and continuity has stood us in good stead.”

The C-word also came in for a favourable mention: “Culturally we’ve worked a lot on what we stand for as people and I’ve seen a lot of players become self-starters, do their own prep and come prepared to our meetings.

“Operationally we’ve also delivered a great service as well from a conditioning, performance analysis and coaching perspective, which has resulted in us being able to do the best we can for the players. I’m proud of the improvement and the culture of the team and the way the players have applied themselves.”

In his first domestic final as a coach, the 37-year-old Janse van Rensburg said his team making it to the final unbeaten after taking care of teams including the Vodacom Blue Bulls and the Xerox Golden Lions in the group stages, and the Cell C Sharks XV in the semifinals, had been rewarding.

“It’s been rewarding to see the improvement in the squad since November 2016 when I arrived. It’s been rewarding for the players and everyone who’s been working hard since then. The final is a great opportunity for the players and the union to showcase themselves.”

But just as he has all season the more his team has finished each game unbeaten, he is still not buying into the favourite’s tag being bestowed upon his side for the final: “For us in our minds we know where we are. We’re not disillusioned because we’ve got a difficult game on Sunday.

“Griquas are a good team, they can really test you in defence so we’re not going to be lured into favourite tags. It’s a game where both teams need to produce, if we want to go all the way we need to turn up.

“Everything we’ve done has given us belief but we can’t get glory from the past. We still have to turn up so we don’t see ourselves as favourites, we just see ourselves as a team in the final.”


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