Questions have been asked about Ivan “Cash” van Rooyen’s credentials but Golden Lions scrumhalf Ross Cronjé gave their Currie Cup coach an unambiguous thumbs up on Thursday.
“For me Cash has brought the enjoyment back into rugby. I’m not saying I lost it but it was something that was missing. I want to thank him for that‚” said the scrumhalf.
Cronjé‚ who has been made captain for the campaign that starts on Saturday with a clash against the Pumas at Ellis Park‚ can use the competition to advance himself in the national pecking order‚ not that this will be his focus.
“If you think about that you are going to forget about the job at hand. You’ll lose focus and your game drops‚” was Cronjé’s reminder.
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Van Rooyen, who also coached the team in the Currie Cup in 2018, is desperate to use the competition as a developmental platform for a dozen or so players.
“Wandisile Simelane‚ Tyrone Green‚ I can name 10 or 12 players ... early in their professional careers.
“They’ve now had around 14 Super Rugby matches and if we add six more Currie Cup matches it will bode well for their future. We are talking about minutes in development. Are 80 minutes a week enough? No. They’ll develop Monday‚ Tuesday‚ Thursday and Friday too.
“This is a good opportunity to see what senior rugby is all about. I see it as six good opportunities for them to get better‚” said Van Rooyen.
Cronjé‚ you sense‚ is keen to put the disappointments of Super Rugby behind the team.
“A lot of guys have left, so for us it is an entirely new campaign. We have a lot of youngsters coming through, so there is a lot of excitement. Super Rugby is very much behind us and I’m actually excited to give the Currie Cup a go‚” said the captain.
Van Rooyen is satisfied with the team’s two and a half week build-up and he has embraced the shortened format in which the teams play just six league matches.
“It is what it is. There will be pressure in every game. We are looking to give players experience‚” said Van Rooyen.
The Golden Lions play the Pumas in their opener on Saturday and Van Rooyen has reason to be wary of the team that beat the Lions in the SuperSport challenge earlier in 2019.
“They played well that day. They are a settled unit‚” said the coach. “They’ve just played in a tournament in which they played well and reached the final. Jimmy [Stonehouse] is a very experienced coach. He’s now coached at international level. They’ll be a threat. They’ve got good old heads in there with some good experience.”
When asked what the Pumas’ undoing was in that final‚ Cronjé diplomatically answered on behalf of the coach. “Griquas played well.”