Sea­son of mis­ery is com­plete

Back to the draw­ing board for the Bulls af­ter a truly horrible cam­paign

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - VATA NGOB­ENI

FI­NALLY, it’s all over. The worst sea­son for the Bulls in 17 years came to an en­ter­tain­ing but los­ing end in the same way they be­gan their cam­paign against the Storm­ers.

There had been so much prom­ise and ex­pec­ta­tion at Lof­tus Vers­feld at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son but the seed of doubt and ex­po­sure of their weak­nesses hap­pened in a sea­son-open­ing loss against the Storm­ers at New­lands.

But the big­gest is­sue to the Bulls cam­paign was in their in­abil­ity to sur­vive the first seven matches of the sea­son, with six of them be­ing away from home, and upon their visit to New Zealand and Tokyo, the writ­ing was on the wall of a sea­son spi­ralling out of con­trol.

From a bad start, where they only man­aged to win one match out of seven, the hor­ror show un­folded for the men in blue as they re­versed the gains from their home wins against the Jaguares and Chee­tahs by suf­fer­ing heavy de­feats to the Cru­saders and Lions.

While their hopes of mak­ing the play-offs had all but evap­o­rated in the record de­feat against the Cru­saders at home, it was the Bulls’ por­ous and heart­less play that will leave a painful and last­ing mem­ory from a sea­son in which they should have built on the gains of last year.

And when they gave them­selves a glim­mer of hope and fin­ish­ing the sea­son in a flurry af­ter beat­ing the Sharks in Dur­ban, the Bulls went back­wards by los­ing the bat­tle of wills in their loss against the South­ern Kings and fi­nally Satur­day’s 41-33 de­feat to the Storm­ers.

Out­go­ing coach Nol­lis Marais has been at pains this sea­son to try and ex­plain what has gone so hor­ri­bly wrong for his tal­ented but in­ex­pe­ri­enced side. Yet he con­ceded that his men lost to a bet­ter Storm­ers side on the day even, though his side had pushed them un­til the end.

“We must give credit to the Storm­ers, they are a great at­tack­ing side.

“Both teams scored some good tries but we had too many er­rors and we gave them the op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“I don’t agree with cer­tain de­ci­sions at the break­down but we were out­done in cer­tain stages that led to two of their tries,” said Marais af­ter the game. Af­ter pre­sid­ing over a sea­son in which the team only man­aged to win four out of their 15 matches, Marais won’t have any time to wal­low in the mis­ery of a cam­paign that saw him lose his job and will now have his sights set on mak­ing a bet­ter im­pres­sion in the up­com­ing Cur­rie Cup sea­son.

Marais be­lieves there are play­ers such as wings Dun­can Matthews and Ke­fentse Mahlo, locks RG Sny­man and Ja­son Jenk­ins who have en­hanced their rep­u­ta­tions through the way they played and he will be look­ing for­ward to help­ing build them into world class play­ers in the fu­ture along with new boss John Mitchell,

pic­tured, who starts his new job as direc­tor of rugby to­day.

“That is the good thing for us be­cause you al­ways ques­tion how good play­ers are when you are un­der pres­sure. If you are win­ning that is fine you can make changes and take lit­tle op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“But we didn’t have those op­por­tu­ni­ties. We weren’t good the whole sea­son and when they (play­ers) got that chance, they used it. They have es­tab­lished them­selves as good rugby play­ers,” Marais said.

PIC­TURE: BACKPAGEPIX

HOME SWEET HOME: The Lions will have the ad­van­tage of play­ing at El­lis Park for the re­main­der of the sea­son. Here Mal­colm Marx crashes over the try­line to score his team’s first try against the Sharks on Satur­day night in their 27-10 vic­tory.

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