Cape Town - It is not often that the Bulls are underdogs against anybody at Loftus, but that might very well be the case when they take on the Sharks on Friday night.
The Sharks, along with the Brumbies, are undefeated after three rounds of Super Rugby and are coming off a bruising 18-13 win against the Stormers at Loftus.
The Bulls, meanwhile, came badly unstuck against the Stormers in the second half when they were at Newlands to lose 33-9 on the opening weekend.
They bounced back against the Rebels, but the last 20 minutes of that 45-25 win at Loftus saw them surrender a bonus point through ill-discipline and sloppy defence.
Now, after a bye weekend, Marais and the Bulls can get their season going with a win over the Sharks.
The Bulls boss has turned to Roelof Smit in an attempt to win more ball at the breakdown, and he is expecting big things from the 23-year-old.
"The focus on the breakdown at the moment is a huge issue,
if you look at all the games. If you train 80% of the time set-pieces, but 80% of
the game is breakdown," Marais said at his team announcement on Tuesday.
"It’s a big focus for us and also the inclusion of
Roelof Smit … to see if we can be better at the breakdown on defence and
"It’s a big area that we’ve worked on for the last two weeks … there are
certain things in that system that we needed to fix to make sure that we can
get quick ball."
Smit has appeared off of the bench in both of his side's matches so far, and he was also guilty of giving away a couple of penalties against the Rebels as the Bulls went to sleep.
Roelof, he’s so eager to prove a point that he’s one of the best open-siders in the country that he gets 20 minutes and now he wants to prove in every ruck that he can
steal a ball," said Marais.
"We’ve worked on which rucks to target and which to leave alone.
think if he gets a go from the beginning he will get more confidence and make
the correct picks. That’s why I think he’ll be very good on Friday night.
is a natural open-sider and I like having a guy in that fetching role. He can
have a big impact."
Marais is expecting a massive challenge at the breakdown, and he knows that the Sharks rely heavily on their forwards.
don’t give you the gain line," he said.
"They’re very physical, they will carry the ball up to
you and they will try and get into space with their forwards.
that we will try to manipulate the best we can and use our attack against them ... we are definitely not going to make it easy for them."
Kick-off on Friday is at 19:10.
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Jamba Ulengo, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Trevor Nyakane
Substitutes: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Nic de Jager, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Jesse Kriel
15. Willie le Roux, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12. Andre Esterhuizen, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Joe Pietersen, 9. Michael Claassens, 8. Daniel du Preez, 7. Philip van der Walt, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Stephan Lewies, 4. Etienne Oosthuizen, 3. Lourens Adriaanse, 2. Kyle Cooper, 1. Tendai Mtawarira (captain)
Substitutes: 16. Franco Marais, 17. Juan Schoeman, 18. Coenie Oosthuizen, 19. Hyron Andrews, 20. Keegan Daniel, 21. Cobus Reinach, 22. Garth April, 23. Odwa Ndungane