Pretoria - Two months since taking the reins of the Blue
Bulls, Nollis Marais is learning old habits die hard as he looks to bring
about reform to the Pretoria side.
“To get rid of old habits takes longer than five weeks, it
is a continuous process and it is something that we will look to improve on it
every week,” Marais said at his first team announcement in Pretoria on
“There is excitement among the players, we want to try
new things, so there is a lot of energy in the team.”
The Bulls have been severely criticised for
committing to an outdated game plan that was overly structured.
Since his appointment Marais has said he would be
employing a more ball-in-hand approach.
Marais announced a youthful match-day 22 with a handful
of players making their Currie Cup debut in Bloemfontein.
In the backline Warrick
Gelant and Travis Ismaiel will get their first run in the competition while
forwards Hanro Liebenberg, Marvin Orie and Jaco Visagie will also be making
their first starts in the competition.
The Blue Bulls sported an
exciting young backline with players that have demonstrated an ability to cut
the opposition defences to pieces.
“There are a lot of players
here that have been looking for opportunities. Warrick Gelant is a really
good rugby player getting his chance on the bigger stage and a lot is expected of
William-Small Smith too,” Marais said.
“His combination with Burger
Odendaal and Tian Schoeman will be interesting on Saturday.”
Meanwhile, standout flank
Lappies Labuschagne was named as captain for the season with Marais strongly
endorsing the former Cheetahs player.
“The decision is made, my
captain for the season will be Lappies, he is a guy that doesn’t talk too much,
he leads from the front,” Marais said.
“The players follow him
because he never backs down, he always works hard in training and he is the
kind of captain I want.”
The Bulls will be travelling
to Bloemfontein following their 42-29 defeat to the Cheetahs in their last
Super Rugby match of the season.
Marais believed the Cheetahs
would have a more settled look about them since that match while he expected an
expansive style from the Free State side.
“Free State are a really
good team and I think they will play exciting rugby and I’ve seen in the
Varsity Cup how he (coach Franco Smith) coached Shimlas,” Marais said.
“I think we will be a bit of
an unknown factor and we will try a few things that might not come off
While the Blue Bulls will be
looking to blood new talent they will also have the added pressure of turning
their fortunes around.
It has been six years since
the Bulls last had their hands on the Currie Cup trophy or featured in a final.
“We would like to play a
brand of rugby that our supporters and the players long before us will be proud
to call themselves Bulls again,” Labuschagne said.
Free State Cheetahs
15 Coenie van Wyk, 14 Clayton
Blommetjies, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Rayno Benjamin, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Niel
Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Gerhard Olivier, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Boom Prinsloo, 5
Francois Uys (captain), 4 Willem Serfontein, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Neil
Rautenbach, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen
Substitutes: 16 Jacques du
Toit, 17 Maks van Dyk, 18 BG Uys, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Tienie Burger, 21 Zee
Mkhabela, 22 Fred Zeilinga
15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis
Ismaiel, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian
Schoeman, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 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 Nqoba Mxoli, 18 RG Snyman, 19 Roelof Smit, 20 Ivan van Zyl, 21 Louis Fouche,
22 Dries Swanepoel