Marais sets sights on tak­ing home Su­per Rugby ti­tle

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

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).”

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