No stress, says Bulls’ Strauss

Skip­per Adri­aan urges team­mates to ex­press them­selves at the Shark Tank

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - VATA NGOBENI

WITH NO prospect of mak­ing the Su­per Rugby play-offs and noth­ing but pride left to play for, Bulls cap­tain Adri­aan Strauss has urged his team to throw cau­tion to the wind and ex­press them­selves when they play the Sharks in Dur­ban to­mor­row.

The Bulls have en­dured one of their worst sea­sons in Su­per Rugby win­ning three of their 12 matches thus far. And their woe­ful cam­paign has been fur­ther com­pounded by a record de­feat to the Crusaders at home and a maiden loss to lowly Sun­wolves in Tokyo.

Strauss wants the Bulls’ last throw of the dice in the com­pe­ti­tion to be mean­ing­ful not only for out­go­ing coach Nol­lis Marais, who will be re­lieved of his du­ties at the end of the sea­son, but also in an ef­fort to re­gain the gloss the team have lost this year.

While there will be no need for Strauss to mo­ti­vate his team in their re­main­ing games against the Sharks, South­ern Kings and Storm­ers, the men from Lof­tus Vers­feld will still need to put up a fight­ing per­for­mance ahead of the ar­rival of new ex­ec­u­tive for rugby and former All Blacks coach John Mitchell later next month.

“We un­der­stand the re­spon­si­bil­ity to play good rugby and all that. To be hon­est, the shack­les are a bit off at the mo­ment and we need to go out there and ex­press our­selves and play with in­tent. We’ve got three games to go in the com­pe­ti­tion and we need to show that in­tent and pas­sion on the field,” Strauss said.

Although many of the play­ers will be play­ing for their liveli­hood at Lof­tus un­der Mitchell, Strauss will want to close the door on what has been a test­ing two years dur­ing his cap­taincy of the Bulls and the Spring­boks.

Af­ter call­ing time on his in­ter­na­tional ca­reer at the end of last year af­ter the Spring­boks suf­fered their worst sea­son, Strauss will be sit­ting out the do­mes­tic sea­son in a bid to re­turn fit­ter and stronger next year in Su­per Rugby where he hopes to lead the Bulls to bet­ter re­sults and pos­si­bly a place in the play-offs.

“No, it is not my last three games. I’m not play­ing in the Cur­rie Cup but I still got some time left,” said the former Bok cap­tain.

To­mor­row’s game will be an op­por­tu­nity for some of the lesser known Bulls play­ers to make their mark in the team with yet an­other wing Ke­fentse Mahlo mak­ing his Su­per Rugby de­but in light of in­juries to Jamba Ulengo, Travis Is­maiel, Jade Stigh­ling and Sibahle Manxwane.

Fly­half Tony Jan­tjies will make his start­ing de­but af­ter earn­ing his three caps com­ing off the bench. Prop Con­raad van Vu­uren is also mak­ing his Su­per Rugby de­but as a late re­place­ment for in­jured Spring­bok Trevor Nyakane.

Spring­bok cen­tres Jan Ser­fontein and Jesse Kriel will con­tinue their for­mi­da­ble part­ner­ship from the Spring­boks’ se­ries white­wash over France while scrumhalf Rudy Paige earns a rare start with An­dré Warner as back-up and likely to earn his first Su­per Rugby cap.

Though rid­dled with in­juries and de­nied the ex­pe­ri­ence of Spring­boks like Nyakane (wrist), Lood de Jager (groin), Han­dré Pol­lard (an­kle), Ulengo (knee) and Is­maiel (knee), Marais be­lieves he still has a strong side that can take on the Sharks but it will be up to the play­ers to prove their worth.

PIC­TURE: BACKPAGE P IX

IN­SPIR­ING?: Adri­aan Strauss, cap­tain of the Vo­da­com Bulls, runs onto the field dur­ing their Su­per Rugby match against the Hur­ri­canes at Lof­tus Vers­feld, Pre­to­ria, last month. The Bulls need to step up a gear when they play the Sharks in Dur­ban to­mor­row.

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