We had the privilege to chat to ICollege Pumas Director of Rugby and coach.
Stonehouse played hooker for the then South Eastern Transvaal union while teaching at Ermelo High School.
He started coaching at Ermelo High School and achieved success coaching their first team.( I was privilege enough to be coached by Stonehouse while playing for Ermelo High Schools U14 side).
He also coach at the time the South Easter Transvaal Craven Week side from 1990 to 1992 and 1994 to 1997.
He then moved to Waterkloof High School as the Director of Rugbyin 1998, guiding them to the Blue Bulls Championship in 2003, the first time in 12 years. He also coached the Blue Bulls Craven Week team between 2003 and 2004.
Stonehouse also coach the Russia Under-19 side at the FIRA European U19 Tournament in France.
He then coached the Russia Sevens side as they qulified for the 2001 Rugby World Cup Sevens and was also appointed the coach for the Russia national team but return to South Africa for family reasons.
In 2004, Stonehouse joined the Pretoria Harlequins club, guiding them to the 2006 Semi-Finals, the first time in 22 years. He then again coach the Blue Bulls Craven Week side for 2007 and 2008.
Stonehouse got his big breakthrough in 2008, when he was appointed as the head coach of the Pumas.
He would go on to build a strong Pumas side that was difficult to beat and often surprised many of the Currie Cup heavyweights.
His reign at the Pumas would last until 2015, when he was approached to join Japanese side Toshiba Brave Lupus, he would later sign a contract extension at Lupus in 2017.
Now back at the Pumas Stonehouse is not just the Director of Rugby but will also coach the Currie Cup side this season.
Ruggaworld – You have been away to Japan for a couple of years after successful years at the Pumas head coach. How important was the move to Japan to grow as coach?
Jimmy – Moving to Japan gave me the opportunity to work with different culture players and different views on rugby, so adapt to this only learned me to work with other people, specially new coaches also coming from different environments. Its also about learning , learning rugby wise , rugby skills.
Working with All Blacks, Japan Captain and Springboks in my team was amazing, if you cannot learn from them you will never learn.
Moving out of my comfort zone into Japan I thought would be the right thing for me to see if I could adapt anywhere and coach and work with different cultures.
Ruggaworld – I think allot of people still think that the Japanese league is a “soft” league and not so demanding on players. Compare to Currie Cup how do you rate the Japanese league?
Jimmy – Japanese top league is just as tough as CC if not tougher.
The quality players playing in Japan including the Japanese is amazing.
Working in my team with players like Frans Steyn, Michael Lietch, Richard Kahui, Cory Jane, Stephen Donald, Liam Messam, Coenie v Wyk, Ono King, Nicolas Kraska, 5 of Toshiba was in the team beating SA in the World Cup.
Not even mentioning the names in other teams. Knowing the Japanese culture you will know their work ethic on and of the field is amazing, so every training session is of top quality.
Ruggaworld – World Cup 2019 will be coming to Japan next year, how much have this done to the development of the game there?
Jimmy – Is going to be a amazing World Cup, the saying everything is big in Japan is true they will make sure it’s successful.
How it helped development in rugby? that part exploded when Japan beat SA in the World Cup, since then rugby is a rollercoaster, its growing day by day.
Only problem no rugby is played at primary school only at clubs which make development slow at a young age.
High school and university rugby is at a high level and growing. Im a bit concerned this year regarding contracting rules for foreign players as uncapped players change from 1 to 3 which I believe is a concern.
Ruggaworld – You came back to South Africa this year as the Director of Rugby at ICollege Pumas, what is your role at the franchise?
Jimmy – I was brought back as a director of rugby being full time on the field and being part of coaching staff, putting all structures in place on and of the field.
Taken full responsibility for the rugby on and of the field preparing with the Anglo Welsh and PRO14 that was proposed to me as a future competition coming up.
This was obviously the main attraction for my move back to the Pumas. My role is different as a Director of Rugby compare to bigger unions.
Ruggaworld – Seems like the winning culture follows you, just back at the franchise and they win the Super Sport Challenge this year, how much did winning the tournament mean to the franchise?
Jimmy – In the financial crisis all unions are at the moment winning is not everything it the only thing, hoping to attract new sponsors and partners.
Its also valuable in contracting new players and getting the community behind us by coming to the stadium to support us.
I also believe a union like us and the Griquas have to perform in this competition, playing against the second best of big unions in SSC going to CC its a next level.
Ruggaworld – The Pumas and Griquas have been given franchise status by SARU, does this mean we will see you play in a European tournament soon?
Jimmy – I hope so, at the moment this is the most important thing getting sponsors, with CC only 1 round what do you promote to suite owners, sponsors ext.
We need this answered asap, having a big effect on contracting as well, playing in a European competition will definitely have a impact on contracting.
Ruggaworld – With the Springboks out of the Currie Cup and the form from the team, surely the expectations for this year must be to make the playoffs and final?
Jimmy – I am a firm believer of aiming for the moon and reach the stars, in our planning knowing CC is one round you cannot loose one game.
But also one round will help us on our squad size and injuries, in the second round smaller unions struggle with this. With the Boks out definitely it will help.
Ruggaworld – Maybe a difficult question but any coach has the goal to coach at the highest level, if a Super Rugby franchise opportunity comes knocking can we maybe see you at that position in future?
Jimmy – If a coach don’t aim for this there must be something wrong, being coach of the year in 2013 doing fairly well and get no opportunity in SA I left for Japan hoping to get experience, doing well in Japan, still no opportunities came my way, thats why when the Pumas approach me with Anglo Welsh or Pro14 in the future I grabbed it.
Ruggaworld – With all the success throughout your career as a coach from the early days at Ermelo High School to where you are today, what is your secret coach?
Jimmy – Live for the people next to you and it will come your way, my whole coaching philosophy being at a smaller union is and will always be play for the team, play and give the player next to you the chance to make it, then the team will go forward and if the team succeeds, your chance will come, the rest is discipline and fitness.
Ruggaworld – The Springboks is under new leadership with Rassie Erasmus, with a 50% start in June, how do you see them go in the Rugby Championships?
Jimmy – This is going to be a real opportunity to see where we really are, playing a weaker English side on home-soil was a good start, things are now more stable that way. But I believe we can win, if injuries stays away.
Its going to be tough and every new coach needs time and only time will tell.
Thank you coach and good luck for the Currie Cup.
The ICollege Pumas kick their Currie Cup off against Griquas on the 18th of August at home, make sure you go and support your team.