Pumas Currie Cup coach Stonehouse off to Japan

The Pumas have confirmed that their Currie Cup coach Jimmy Stonehouse has resigned and taken up a position with Japanese club Toshiba Brave Lupus.

Stonehouse has turned down two previous offers from abroad in the hope of landing a job with a South African franchise which never came.

Stonehouse, whose two-year contract with Japanese Top League club Toshiba Brave Lupus starts in April, said he still fostered dreams of coaching a South African Super Rugby team.

“I will always come back to South Africa to coach. The biggest reason for my decision was that I’ve been with the Pumas for seven years and I take the view that there are so many good coaches in South Africa that a position could not be created for me,” Stonehouse told Sapa on Thursday.

“At the moment I am stagnating, I am not learning while competing against big unions and I have to teach myself to improve.

“If I was an assistant coach with a Super Rugby franchise and learning from them, I could in turn teach my guys.”

Stonehouse had been instrumental in the Pumas being promoted to the Currie Cup Premier Division in 2010 and again in 2014.

The union’s promotion and unbeaten run in the Currie Cup First Division competition earned him the SA Rugby Union’s Coach-of-the-Year award in 2013.

Stonehouse, who represented the Pumas as player before taking the coaching reins in 2008, transformed a semi-professional team into one of the darling teams in South African rugby.

Despite being relegated from the Premier Division at the end of 2011, Stonehouse remained steadfast in his goal of coaching the team in Currie Cup.

The 50-year-old had to rebuild his team after a host of players left the Mpumalanga team, only to reclaim promotion in 2014 after an impressive run in all their 2013 competition appearances.

Finishing runners-up in the Vodacom Cup that year and enjoying a 16-match unbeaten run in the Currie Cup First Division earned the Pumas a place in the promotion-relegation match against Griquas, which they won on aggregate.

“It is difficult for me to leave but you get to a point in your career where you have to make the choice to move forward when you are not getting an opportunity here,” Stonehouse said.

“Then there are people below you that are not getting the opportunity. I’ve been here for seven years and they also need to start taking charge.”

Stonehouse believed his move to the Land of the Rising Sun would make him a better mentor and, ultimately, aid him in landing a position with one of the South African franchises.

“It is perhaps a good opportunity for me, taking into account the international players such as Richard Kahui, Cooper Vuna and Frans Steyn in the squad. To coach there, you learn a lot from those guys and it makes a difference when you want to return some day.

“Hopefully I can bring back international experience, where you will see a different approach to the game and other techniques.

“This is maybe the stepping stone I need — to learn overseas and bring back the knowledge. I know I could make a difference from what I will pick up there.”

“I have no doubt in my mind that this year will be a great year for the Pumas,” Stonehouse said in a statement.

“Most of the hard work has been done, and the coaching staff and players know what’s expected of them.

“This opportunity has taken my professional career to the next level and I look forward to it.”

Stonehouse had been instrumental in the team being promoted to the Currie Cup Premier Division in 2010 and again in 2014.

The Pumas’ promotion and unbeaten run in the 2013 Currie Cup First Division competition earned Stonehouse the SA Rugby Union’s Coach-of-the-Year award.

Mpumalanga Rugby’s managing director Pieter Burger said the union hoped to build on the legacy Stonehouse would be leaving behind.

After a brief meeting with the players earlier on Wednesday, Burger ensured everyone that no quick decision would be made as far it goes to appointing a new coach.

“There will be an appointment made, but like with all corporate companies this decision will only be made through the right processes,” Burger said.

“We will definitely not make any rush decisions, and should one be made, it will benefit all parties.”

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