In­jury blues plays havoc with Marais’ Bulls plan

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - VATA NGOBENI

Out­go­ing Bulls coach Nol­lis Marais finds him­self stuck be­tween a rock and a hard place in a bat­tle for self-preser­va­tion and the greater good of his em­ploy­ers.

Al­ready con­demned to life as a Cur­rie Cup coach after a dis­mal two-year spell in Su­per Rugby that ended in him get­ting the axe, Marais was ea­ger to use the Bulls’ last three Su­per Rugby matches – against the Sharks, South­ern Kings and Storm­ers – to blood some of the play­ers he will have at his dis­posal for the do­mes­tic sea­son.

How­ever, injuries have wreaked havoc with his plans and Marais will now re­sort to sal­vaging what­ever lit­tle pride is left in his last few days as head coach of the Su­per Rugby side be­fore for­mer All Blacks coach John Mitchell takes over at Lof­tus Vers­feld.

Any chance of the Bulls mak­ing the play-offs long dis­ap­peared prior to the June in­ter­na­tional break after they were at the re­ceiv­ing end of heavy de­feats at the hands of the Cru­saders and Lions while losses to the High­landers and Hur­ri­canes fur­ther com­pounded their dire sit­u­a­tion as they lan­guish in eighth place in the South African Group which is made up of nine teams in two pools.

Injuries to some promis­ing young­sters means Marais will again have to rely on the same un­der-per­form­ing play­ers that have been at the root of him get­ting the chop.

Marais’ big­gest prob­lem is that many of the play­ers he has utilised in Su­per Rugby this year won’t be avail­able for the Cur­rie Cup com­pe­ti­tion due to na­tional duty com­mit­ments and con­tracts with Ja­pan-based clubs.

The Bulls will need to find new locks with Lood de Jager cer­tain to be with the Spring­boks in the Rugby Cham­pi­onship while RG Sny­man and Jason Jenk­ins are head­ing off to Ja­pan. Fly­half is also an­other area of con­cern with Han­dré Pol­lard strug­gling with injuries but is likely to be roped into the na­tional team while Tian Schoe­man will be head­ing for France at the end of the sea­son leav­ing Tony Jan­tjies, and the lit­tle ex­pe­ri­enced Josh Stander and Ti­nus de Beer to choose from. There is a cri­sis loom­ing at hooker with cap­tain Adri­aan Strauss not avail­able to play Cur­rie Cup rugby in terms of his con­tract while Edgar Marut­lulle un­der­went an an­kle op­er­a­tion and is out for at least two months with Jaco Vis­agie the only ex­pe­ri­enced No 2 in se­nior rugby. “I will have to go with the best play­ers avail­able for the last three games. The Cur­rie Cup will have to wait but that first game against Gri­quas will be a mas­sive chal­lenge be­cause we will be play­ing with a brand new team,” said Marais.

Marais re­mains hope­ful that some­thing good can come out of their clash against the Sharks in Dur­ban on Fri­day es­pe­cially with all his na­tional team play­ers avail­able.

With the likes of Jan Ser­fontein and Jesse Kriel fea­tur­ing promi­nently for the Spring­boks while War­rick Ge­lant, Jason Jenk­ins and Trevor Nyakane also putting in good per­for­mances for the SA ‘A’ side, Marais is hold­ing on to the hope that the con­fi­dence from the na­tional teams in­fil­trates into his side.

“It is a good thing that all th­ese guys played re­ally well,” Marais said. “I want this team to play good rugby and win. It is about look­ing at the big­ger pic­ture.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.