Pretoria - Loftus Versfeld has been his playground
since a child and taking the reins of the Blue Bulls is dream come true
for the newly appointed head coach Nollis Marais.
Catching up with Marais two weeks since he had been
given the task to steer the Light Blues back to Absa Currie Cup glory, he still
seems like a child with a new toy when describing his vision for the Blue Bulls.
The 43-year-old Marais, however, knows full well
coaching one of the top South African rugby sides in the world’s oldest
provincial competition will be anything but child’s play.
“Our teams did not do well (in Super Rugby),
everybody wants a trophy and this is the one they can still win this year and
there will be huge drive from the South African teams to win the Currie Cup,”
Give Marais half-a-chance and he will share his
passion for the Blue Bulls and love for rugby with anyone willing to
Marais has already left an indelible mark on rugby in
Pretoria during his relatively short coaching career.
In his final year of playing club rugby for Naka Bulls,
Marais was asked if he was interested in coaching the Under-15 team at
Hoërskool Overkruin back in 2003.
After a few years of success at coaching schoolboy
rugby Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, who was the Bulls’ director of rugby gave
him a chance to coach Tuks in the Varsity Cup.
Since then Marais has demonstrated his coaching
abilities collecting two Varsity Cup titles and three Under-21 Provincial
Championship trophies with the Blue Bulls.
Marais speaks of his memories watching rugby at Loftus
Versfeld with fondness which fuels his passion for the team and his dream of
winning the Currie Cup.
“I will never forget when I was still in Primary
School, my dad would drop me and five friends off and we would buy bags of
biltong,” he recalls.
“The Voortrekkers (scouts) would show us to our seats,
it was still on the steel stands, and there we would watch many games - from
the morning starting with the Primary School games to the main game.”
In pursuit of his passion, Marais gave up a successful
career as a logistics manager without any real coaching prospects.
“I went almost a year without work because I decided
that I wanted to pursue a career in rugby but my wife said if it is something
that made me happy that I should go for it,” he said.
“Within a year I had a job with a small salary which
allowed me to follow my passion and God was good to me but my family’s support
means the world to me.”
Marais has promised that supporters will be in for a
surprise by the Vodacom Blue Bulls’ new approach to the game.
A move away from the Bulls’ perceived conservative
game plan could be on the cards with a major assault on the Currie Cup trophy.
“If you look, over the years, the Bulls have been very
successful in the Currie Cup and it is a competition that is close to my
heart,” he said.
“It is about getting the pride back in playing for the
Currie Cup again and our main focus is to play for the Currie Cup and all our
emphasis is on the competition.”