The Pumas issued a blunt “hands off our captain” directive at the Eastern Province Kings, ahead of their two-match Currie Cup promotion-relegation series.
It all starts in Witbank this Friday, when the Pumas and Kings go head-to-head, with the return match in Port Elizabeth a week later.
Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse revealed on Wednesday that the Kings – who have already lured scrumhalf Jacques Coetzee to Port Elizabeth – have approached captain Hannes Franklin and No.8 Christo le Roux with big money offers.
The timing of the offers, to join the Kings next year, is frowned upon.
However, Stonehouse believes it might be more to do with “mind games” ahead of the big match, rather that a genuine offer – since both players are still contracted to the Pumas until the end of 2011.
The Pumas coach said the offers were almost triple what the players were getting in Witbank.
“”It looks impressive to a player if he gets R200,000 in one place and suddenly gets an offer of almost R600,000 elsewhere,” Stonehouse told rugby365.com, adding: “It can be a distraction.
“However, we have to ensure that we keep our players focussed on the task at hand.”
The Pumas coach said there is no way Franklin and Le Roux can join the Kings next year, because they are contracted till the end of 2011.
He also confirmed that the Kings doubled Coetzee’s salary when they singed him recently – a move which resulted in the Pumas axing the scrumhalf to avoid putting him in an awkward position in the play-offs.
Other than the off-field distraction, Stonehouse was forced into making a couple of changes to his team.
Fullback Johan Jackson, who was handed a two-match ban for a spear tackle against the Lions, has been replaced by Carl Bezuidenhout for Friday’s first promotion-relegation game.
The other change to the starting XV is tactical – with Jaco Bouwer coming in at openside flank, Corné Steenkamp moving to the blindside and Eduan van der Walt dropping out of the matchday 22.
“We had also hoped to have [lock] Andries Kruger back from injury, but that didn’t work out,” Stonehouse said, adding: “The team as we played [in the 34-27 win] against the Lions remains the core of the team.”
Pumas: 15 Carl Bezuidenhout, 14 Vainon Willis, 13 Shaun Venter, 12 Tian Meyer, 11 Allistair Kettledas, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Hendrik van der Nest, 8 Christo le Roux, 7 Corné Steenkamp, 6 Jaco Bouwer, 5 Marius Coetzer, 4 Luan Velthuizen, 3 Ashley Buys, 2 Hannes Franklin (captain), 1 Ronnie Uys.
Replacements: 16 Hans van Dyk, 17 Dawie Steyn, 18 Dee-Jay Terblanche, 19 Willem Serfontein, 20 Eduan van der Walt, 21 Ricardo Croy, 22 Ashwin Scott.
Date: Friday, October 22
Venue: Puma Stadium, Witbank
Kick-off: 19.10 (17.10 GMT)
Referee: Marius Jonker
Assistant referees: Joey Salmans, Christie du Preez
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee
Article Courtesy of Rugby 365Tweet