Johannesburg - Ousted Bulls coach Nollis Marais has not been fired and “is very much still employed” by the Blue Bulls, the union's executive of rugby John Mitchell says.
Marais was “put on paid leave” in a Sunday night shake-up that has restructured the Bulls coaching department, and according to CEO Barend van Graan, the decision is only for the remainder of the 2017 season, with his future after that uncertain.
It was initially thought that Marais would assist Mitchell in next year’s Super Rugby campaign, but now with the restructuring, it is unclear what will be done with Marais in the new year or what role he will fulfil.
In an interview with SuperSport.com, Mitchell praised Marais as a “bloody good oke” who had a tough year and believes he can make a vital contribution to the Bulls again in the future.
“Yeah, that’s not my area. That is up to Barend and Xander (Janse van Rensburg, High Performance Manager). But Nollis is very much still employed by us, and he is a bloody good oke. Unfortunately he has been through a tough year. An outcome can be a really dangerous thing. We have to become more consistent, we have to create clarity and confidence. His heart is in the right place, he loves this place, it is massive to him,” Mitchell said on the restructuring.
“So it is a chance for him to refresh and come back at some point and make a vital contribution again.”
Mitchell said while it had been a busy Monday after the shake-up, much of the time and effort was used to reassure players of their roles and provide clarity on the way forward.
“Yeah it has been a hectic day, so it has just been about getting back into our processes. You have to be fair to Nollis and to the athletes. It isn’t easy when you bring in a Director of Rugby and the Director has a new methodology and new end point of where we want to go. So, who is really the players’ master in their eyes? You have to feel for Nollis as well, the perception you create of who is the head coach. In many ways we cleared that up right from the start. That has been very helpful.”
With the Currie Cup team losing three games this season, the Board demanded change, and it came through the shake-up, but the Bulls on the field have scored a lot of points, but have conceded just as many, with their fans unhappy about the team’s defence at the moment. The Bulls currently sit fifth in a seven team log, above only the Pumas and Lions and have scored 199 points - at an average of 33 a match - while conceding 181 - an average of 30 a match.
Mitchell was at pains to point out that the team had changed its defensive system and these changes would take time to become fruitful.
“We’ve changed the system. We actually defended well on the weekend and it is the best overall defence improvement that we have had. We’ve had an old way and the old way is certainly not going to bring us to dizzy heights again. The new way is creating greater demands on the energy system but once it arrives, collectively and everyone is on the same page I’d say look out.
“Yeah we are very capable on attack but we’re still nowhere near where we need to be. Just imagine where we will be when we start extracting more turnover ball and capitalise on that. It's exciting to be in transition. I can feel it and see it and know we have a long way to go but at the end it is important to stay on it,” he added.
Mitchell said he needed fans to be patient as the team are developing and the changes he wanted to implement would take time.
“Currie Cup is very much about developing your systems but it is important to give ourselves the best shot of winning it as well. We still have a shot at that reality but we obviously will have to do it the hard way. The important thing at the moment is to realise we are a club who are developing new systems.”
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