Nollis Marais was confirmed as the Bulls’ SuperRugby coach for the next four years over the weekend and he said he will continue with the enterprising new style of rugby he has introduced in the Currie Cup and which has taken the Blue Bulls to the brink of a home semi-final.
“Of course we will need to be more accurate in SuperRugby, but we’ll have more time to prepare than we did for the Currie Cup. We will change one or two things in the three months we have pre-season and there’s still a lot of improvement needed,” Marais said.
“It’s a huge surprise to be appointed because I only applied on the second-last day, but I’d like to thank my captain [Lappies Labuschagne] and the support of the fans and players because their backing is what got me appointed. I know there will be a lot of challenges and we have a lot to improve on for SuperRugby,” the 43-year-old said.
Bulls CEO Barend van Graan described Marais as “fearless” and a “straightshooter” who has “turned the tide at Loftus Versfeld”.
“He knows the players and understands them and they have adapted very well to his coaching style. The board and I have got a lot of faith in Nollis and that’s why we have given him a four-year contract. It gives him the opportunity to build,” Van Graan said.
Even though the Blue Bulls will go into the final round of league play in the Currie Cup with a firm hold on second place, four points ahead of Western Province, after their 48-27 win over the Eastern Province Kings at Loftus Versfeld, the match showed the improvement that is still needed by the young side if they are to be a force in Super Rugby.
The Kings went into half-time with a 20-17 lead having dominated the gain-line and been slick with ball-in-hand as they probed both the near and wide channels. The Bulls managed to up the intensity to produce an impressive second-half display, but the ability to play an 80-minute game still eludes them.
“The first half was a bit lacklustre, we made mistakes and they capitalised, and we only started to get momentum in the second half. The pattern needs to suit the players and we needed to play less expansively because we lost Deon Stegmann before the game and Jacques du Plessis had to move from lock to flank, when we wanted to play a quick game. We had to stick to playing the ball closer and not going wide and the best thing was the improvement in the driving maul. We put them under pressure with it in the second half and it paid off for us,” Marais said.