Currie Cup

Bulls hell-bent on ending title drought

2015-07-30 13:00
Nollis Marais (Gallo Images)

Pretoria - Ending their six-year Currie Cup title drought is the main priority on Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais' wishlist for this year.

Marais may be new in his role as mentor of the Pretoria side but he knows full well that no excuses would be tolerated if they do not at least reach the playoffs in this year's competition.

"Aiming for anything but the title you would be wasting your time and our focus is to do well and to reach the playoffs," Marais told Sport24 from Japan ahead of their warm-up match against the Canon Eagles.

"I don't want the players to focus on that at the moment but instead on implementing what they have done over the last few weeks."

Other than Currie Cup glory, Marais could be elevated to the head coach role in Super Rugby should he taste success.

Although there has been little news from the Bulls regarding their search for a replacement for Frans Ludeke, rumour has it Marais would be considered if he found a winning formula.

Marais's first goal is to replace the team's outdated game plan with a more expansive style which will not only be appealing to the eye but also get them back to winning ways.

"I believe we have the right mix of players to play with the ball in hand and as I told the guys we need to get that balance between tactical kicking and when to attack with the ball in hand," he said.

"The idea is to play a more attacking mindset... we also give a lot of attention to our defence because as the teams target more of an expansive game you need to defend well."

Giving the ball air, Marais believes, will be a popular theme in this year's competition as South African sides move away from their overly structured game plans.

"I expect a more expansive approach from most of the teams and if you look at Super Rugby the team that scores the most tries often gets into the final," Marais said.

"These days you can't solely rely on defence and your kicking game; your attack and scoring tries is extremely valuable in winning matches.

"I think there will be a new approach from most of our teams compared to last year and (we) can expect a turnaround from teams where they will try to defeat each other with an attacking game plan."

Marais is in the unenvious position of bringing Currie Cup glory to the Pretoria for the first time since they beat the Free State Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld in 2009.

Since then the side reached three semi-finals without advancing the to the final with both Ludeke and Pine Pienaar, who coached the side in this period, receiving the boot.

"We take the Currie Cup very serious and we would like to have a good start, our first match is against the Cheetahs away which will be a tough one," Marais said.

"That first match will be interesting to gauge where exactly we are in terms of our growth."'

The Bulls have traditionally shied away from backing young talent but Marais could be reversing that trend with a host of youngsters vying for a starting berth.

"We only have a handful of players that have played Currie Cup, the rest are youngsters but the players need to know that I will only select players that are in form," Marais said.

"In the same breath, the younger players need to know they will have to be at the top of their game to unseat some of the senior players."

Marais says there is a healthy rivalry for positions in the camp with young players believing they can unseat some of the seniors.

"The great thing we have at the moment is the fact that the juniors believe they are good enough to make the starting XV and 90 percent of them will play in the first game," he said.

"There were older players that were entrenched in certain positions where there wasn't a challenge for those positions.

"Now you have a lot of youngsters that will play and there is a healthy challenge for positions while they also motivate each other."

Blue Bulls team v Canon Eagles:

15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Dries Swanepoel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Louis Fouche, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Lappies Labuschagne (captain), 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling

Substitutes: 16 Bandise Maku, 17 Andrew Beerwinkel, 18 RG Snyman, 19 Roelof Smit, 20 Ivan van Zyl, 21 Tian Schoeman, 22 William Small-Smith, 23 Nqoba Mxoli, 24 Hanro Liebenberg, 25 Dan Kriel, 26 Jannes Kirsten, 27 Kefentse Mahlo

Read more on:    blue bulls  |  currie cup  |  nollis marais  |  pretoria  |  rugby

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