Bulls must stick it out, says captain Strauss

Super Rugby

PRETORIA – Bulls captain Adriaan Strauss has never been a man for the glitz and glamour that comes with the game of rugby.

Instead, it is men like him that the rugby gods have maybe dealt the cruel hand of never fully experiencing the drunken high of holding a trophy aloft and gulping the sweet taste of success.

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Adriaan Strauss will hope to inspire the Bulls to victory on Saturday. Photo: Bruce Lim, www.photosport.nzCoach Nollis Marais is feeling the pressure as the Bulls have won just once this season. Photo: Muzi Ntombela, BackpagePixHandré Pollard is back at No 10 and will aim to dominate with the boot and ball-in-hand. Photo: Bruce Lim,

In his previous jobs as Cheetahs and Springbok captain, Strauss has endured testing times – from leading a franchise of no-hopers as far as reaching the 2013 Super Rugby playoffs where they lost against the Brumbies in Canberra to being at the helm of the national team last year through their worst season yet.

This year, Strauss has again had to man up as the Bulls endure their worst start to Super Rugby in over a decade.

But the tough-as-nails blonde hooker from the Free State believes this is the time that real rugby players are separated from those who are in the game for the glory.

With the Bulls only winning one of their six matches so far this season, Strauss is not at all removed from the tough realities that face his side, and has urged his team to do all the talking on the field ahead of Saturday’s clash against the Jaguares at Loftus Versfeld (7.30pm kickoff).

For Strauss, it is all about his side staying the course and fighting to prove that they are still as good as their pre-season billing as one of South Africa’s top Super Rugby franchises.

“I think one thing that you learn is that you need to stick it out in the fight, no matter what happens. You need to make the step up, and we get that opportunity this weekend, and I don’t want to talk a big game,” Strauss said.

“We know what lies ahead of us. We had a chat, every single one of us, and we are all still passionate and very hungry to play good rugby.”

Coach Nollis Marais is feeling the pressure as the Bulls have won just once this season. Photo: Muzi Ntombela, BackpagePix

As much as Strauss believes that his side can turn their season around, he also understands that the position the Bulls find themselves is self-inflicted.

From buckling under the pressure of playing five away games to the plethora of errors they have made as individuals and as a team.

Saturday’s match will be the perfect time to fix that and slowly get their campaign back on track.

“We are not going to make any excuses. We had a slow start and after the Sunwolves game at Loftus, we did gain some confidence especially against the Blues in that first half, and against the Chiefs there were better signs as well,” Strauss said.

“Against the Sunwolves (in Tokyo) we just let it slip, we had a very bad day, as a team we had an off-day, individually we made a lot of mistakes.

“We could have done better at the beginning of the season, but there is nothing we can do about it now. We can start rectifying and just look forward to the weekend’s game, which is going to be a very tough one.”

The Bulls can’t afford to continue in the same vein they have, especially in their last three matches against the Blues, Chiefs and Sunwolves, when they confront the Jaguares.

They will need to eliminate the needless and costly errors, while making sure they play to their strengths if they are to attain a favourable result.

“It has been a lot of execution errors, but it is important to look at the positives for us as a team and look at the stages during the season where we have played good rugby, what we’ve done there and what makes us good as a team,” said Strauss.

“But we have to be positive and look at what we’ve done well during the season. We want to attack that even more and play to our strengths, knowing full well that the Jaguares will have a rush (defence) like we faced against the Sunwolves. We need to handle it better and we need to carry ball better.”

Handré Pollard is back at No 10 and will aim to dominate with the boot and ball-in-hand. Photo: Bruce Lim,

The biggest challenge for Strauss and his under-performing Bulls team won’t be the Jaguares, but that internal demon that has prevented them from playing their best rugby and putting their best foot forward.

“We are all in this together equally. We are all equally responsible to do well each and every weekend. We want to play well and we want to bounce back. We are not in a good spot and we realise that, but we are not going to play for vengeance or anyone specifically,” Strauss said.

“We are all going to play for the Bulls and ourselves, and that includes the coach. We are going to play for the guy next to us and play for our supporters. We’ve still got the heartbeat, we just have to go out there and put it together now. Be clinical, play with passion and execute a lot better.”

Teams For Loftus

Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Nic de Jager, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Pierre Schoeman.

Bench: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Martin Dreyer, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Warrick Gelant.

Jaguares: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Rodrigo Baez, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Marcos Kremer, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustin Creevy (captain), 1 Lucas Noguera Paz.

Bench: 16 Roberto Tejerizo, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Benjamin Macome, 20 Tomas Lezana, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Nicolas Sanchez, 23 Ramiro Moyano.

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe. Kickoff: 7.30pm.

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