The Puma, a little puppy that found itself barking with the big dogs. Stonehouse finds himself occasionally training with his players and this managed to form a bond between them as a team. His touch was evident as a few of his players managed to graduate all the way to Super Rugby and Test level.
Stonehouse is now in Japan, part of the coaching staff that has taken Toshiba Brave Lupus to the semi-finals. The Top League side will be aiming to win their first title since 2009-10. Jimmy gave us his favourite XV,
BC – How is your time in Japan? How have you taken to Japanese culture?
JS – I enjoy Japan very much, adapting to the culture was difficult in the beginning. Now I am into it enjoying the food, the discipline, the lifestyle, the cleanliness and safety of the country. I got used to using the train system and yes traveling on a bicycle from A to B is not so bad as well. I have Japanese lessons to help me with the language, which is a difficult language.
BC – What are you looking to turn to after your contract runs out? Is there a chance you will return to South Africa and coach?
JS – Yes I would really like to come back and coach in my own country. The reason I left was to gain international experience and exposure. It hopefully creates more opportunities for me back home. I believe I still have a lot to offer the game and players back in South Africa.
BC – You are working with some of the most talented players in the world in the form of Francois Steyn and Richard Kahui to mention a few. Do you think Steyn could add some value as a Springbok in the future?
JS – Yes. I believe Frans is in the best shape of his career, mentally and physically. Working with him is amazing and seeing what he still has to offer is great. The same with Andries Bekker who is also in great shape and performs very well week in and week out.
BC – You are believed to be a tough coach who has very high standards. Is it really a drawback when dealing with South African sides? Is there a possibility that some unions have shunned you because of your character/personality?
JS – Yes my standards are very high which I believe is positive and a great aspect. Coaching a smaller union where you have to make players believe they can make a difference, make them understand the future of their teammates lies in their hands, can only be achieved by discipline on and off the field.
You have to understand you don’t have the luxury of just buying the next best player, I had to coach and trainings were tough.
There is life after rugby. If players don’t have discipline in the sport they love, how will they have discipline in life and their future after rugby? If trying to create that balance makes me a tough coach; then yes I am.
Someone once told me that word is going around that my personality is too strong. I’m a firm believer of, it’s not what you say it’s how you say it. If that cost me the opportunity to coach at bigger unions then I have been shunned. I believe you surround yourself by the best coaches to create the best outcome and I don’t see other coaches as a threat.
At some stage I thought the criteria is, ‘It’s who you know and not what you know’. I accepted that and moved on and I continue to try and become a better coach. I will always be willing to learn as I am passionate about the game.
BC – The quota system will be in overdrive over the next four years. What do you think will be the biggest drawback to having it?
JS – By not accepting it. First of all get rid of the word quota, we create a stigma and brilliant players will still feel they are seen as quota. It is part of our country, accept it and coach as if it does not exist.
Do better planning, development from school level more aggressive, give more money to smaller unions, they are the ones who are doing the development. Big unions just buy the cream of the crop. Look there will always be positives and negatives, so change your attitude.
BC – What have been your biggest lessons from Japan? Will they continue to grow and develop or will their 2015 RWC be the apex of their abilities?
JS – The discipline in coaches and players. Nobody is late and is giving 100% always. The respect players have and show to spectators after games.
After every training sessions players stay behind and do individual training in every position on their own. For me as a coach I have learned to listen and discuss more, to do better explanation while coaching, due to the language and translation challenge.
Japan? Sure they will become better and develop more, you must remember they are not professional players, and after the World Cup rugby has become one of the most popular sports in Japan. The amount of spectators at each game has continued to grow. You must also remember that nobody will under estimate Japan again.
Surely they will knock some big teams in the future, but only time will tell how successful they will be in 2019. I can guarantee you, they will put in a big effort!
BC – You managed to coach Liam Messam who featured for your side after the World Cup. Would you say there is a difference between New Zealand players and the rest of the player in Japan?
It’s a difficult question because all the foreigners here are Super rugby players. 3 World Cup winners and 5 Japan World Cup squad members. Top players who are willing to learn every day and share knowledge with others.
To say what is the difference between NZ players and the rest would be unfair because here they have to adjust their game according to the Japan way.
BC – What is your all-time favourite XV?
JS – Beast, Gary Botha, Richard Bands, Kobus Wiese, John Eales, Richie McCaw, Duane Vemeulen, Zinzan Brooke, Joost vd Westhuizen, J. Wilkinson, B. Habana, SBW, Danie Gerber, Julian Savea, Serge Blanco.
BC – All the best this week Jimmy. Thanks!
JS – Cheers Benedict!