Pretoria - Last year they were the Cinderella
side in the Currie Cup competition, this year the Pumas want to have a real
stab at the silverware.
In his first year in charge of the Pumas,
MJ Mentz believes his side can build on the success of last year.
“We met as a team and after we came so
close last year we definitely want to finish in the top four to stake a claim for
a semi-final berth,” Mentz said.
The Mpumalanga side made a fairytale start
to their re-entry to the competition in 2014 as giant slayers with victories
over the Sharks and the Free State Cheetahs.
The so-called minions looked set to reach
the playoffs at the half-way point but they ran out of steam in the latter part
of the competition to finish in a respectable sixth place.
“We would definitely like to have a good
start like last year where we won four out of five of our first matches in the
first round,” Mentz said.
“That put us in a position to reach a
semi-final but unfortunately our wheels came off and we did some soul searching
on why we experienced that collapse towards the end.”
Following their Vodacom Cup title victory
earlier this year, Mentz felt bullish about his side’s chances of winning the
coveted Currie Cup trophy.
Vodacom Cup win has certainly given us a lot of confidence but we are well
aware that the Currie Cup will be tougher prospect where we will face stronger
opposition,” Mentz said.
“The confidence and continuity that we have
from that competition will hopefully hold us in good stead.”
The Pumas will also be buoyed by victories
in their friendly matches against Boland and Western Province in the past
“We had good warm-up matches down in the
Western Cape against Province and Boland where we experimented with a few
things and gave some players opportunities to show what they had to offer,”
“We are quite happy with how it went other
than winning the matches, it was more about how we played and ticking certain
Mentz said the Pumas had taken valuable
lessons from last year’s competition where their player depth had been
stretched thin against the bigger unions.
Other than increasing their talent pool,
the Pumas also opted for fewer warm-up matches to ensure the players performed
at their optimum throughout the competition.
“We’ve made some changes to our
conditioning model in terms of the players’ game time because they were
fatigued,” he said.
“We only had a group of 28 players so this
year it is about managing them and rely a bit more on our depth.
“This time last year we played more warm-up
matches which caught up with us in the second half of the Currie Cup so we
decided on only two this year and hopefully it works for us.”
The Pumas will be strengthened by the
return of Super Rugby loan players Giant Mtyanda (Sharks), Corne Fourie (Lions),
while Faf de Klerk and Vincent Koch could also join the team should they be
released from the Springboks.