Marais sets sights on taking home Super Rugby title
BULLS coach Nollis Marais,
is a brave man. Not only did he boldly take over the reins last year but he has now declared that the time has come for the Bulls to again rule Super Rugby.
In other words, Marais will accept nothing less than his team making the Super Rugby play-offs this year and has gone as far as saying that their aim is to win the competition.
The Bulls last won Super Rugby seven years ago during a golden era where they became the first South African side to be crowned Super Rugby champions in 2007 and followed it up with two more titles in 2009 and 2010.
Marais now wants his team to emulate the feats of Heyneke Meyer and Frans Ludeke’s teams and even though lacking in experience and big name players, the man who cut his coaching teeth in the club rugby scene in Pretoria believes that his team possesses the talent and hunger to be champions. Last year Marais’ team came within a win of making the play-offs and had it not been for their diabolical showing in their loss against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires then they could have joined the Lions and Stormers.
“No, no, no ... making the play-offs is non-negotiable. We want to win Super Rugby. We now have depth in the squad and we have a very good side that can go all the way. But we have to make play-offs, that’s our main aim,” he said.
And true Marais has a squad that is one year older in Super Rugby after starting off last season with just over a dozen debutantes and with some of the cream of the country’s emerging stars like Lizo Gqoboka, Pierre Schoeman, RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins, Hanro Liebenberg, Jannes Kirsten in the forwards and Jamba Ulengo, Travis Ismaiel, Warrick Gelant to compliment the international experience of Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Lood de Jager, Rudy Paige, Handre Pollard Jan Serfontein and Jesse Kriel.
It stands to reason why Marais would be so optimistic and even brave enough to throw caution to the wind but their road to international club rugby’s holy grail will be met with a lot of resistance and opposition from the New Zealand franchises which the Bulls didn’t play last year.
The Bulls will play most of their games at the beginning of the competition away from home with two mouthwatering encounters against the Stormers and Cheetahs away to kick-off their campaign before they travel to the land of the long white cloud and come home to what Marais has termed “the month from hell.”
“Out of my first seven games, I only have one at home. The Stormers, we want to go down there and beat them after they beat us 33-9 in the opening game last year and we are really looking forward to going down there,” Marais said.
“We have a bit of a score to settle with the Cheetahs in Bloem as well. We’ll play the Sunwolves at home before travelling to New Zealand and then we come home when the month from hell starts with the Hurricanes, Highlanders, Crusaders and the Lions. We are looking forward to it and seeing how the players get through it. Our aim has always been to win it (Super Rugby).”