Bulls Coach Nollis Marais is feeling the pressure. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
PRETORIA – The Bulls are living through their worst nightmare but coach Nollis Marais is hopeful that their dreams of becoming a force again in Super Rugby will become a reality soon.

It may not seem like it now after winning three out of their 10 matches so far this season but the under-fire Marais spoke from the heart about where he sees his team ending one day in the competition.

Behind them lies a trail of destruction inflicted by opposition teams including an embarrassing defeat to the Sunwolves and another record-breaking hiding at the hands of the Crusaders at Loftus Versfeld.

Ahead of the Bulls Saturday, lie the high-flying Lions, ready to pounce and add insult to injury.

But Marais is optimistic that things will turn around for his side and it will begin with the way they play against a Lions team that is far superior to them in performance and standings. But theirs remains a long term dream of not only beating the Lions but returning to dominate Super Rugby again.

And this, Marais believes, can still happen with him at the helm and with the same crop of young players who he will go to war with at Ellis Park.

Marais is not running away from the nightmare he and his team are living at the moment but has urged his side not to deviate the dream they have that the glory days are around the corner.

Photo: EPA/Kimimasa Mayama

“There’s a lot of things being said about me being fired and the players not playing well. I think we started out 20 years ago having a dream,” said Marais at Thursday’s team announcement .

“You have to take into consideration when you live out your dream and want to play top flight sport and be No 1, there is going to be criticism and people are going to be unhappy about certain things and they (players) must get used to it. They started out 20 years ago believing in something they want to do for the rest of their life and it is not always easy and going to be happy trails. 

"If you are not willing to take the punishment and criticism then we should tell our kids from the beginning that they must not dream. They must not believe that they can become the No 1 swimmer and the best flyhalf because people are going to criticise you and they are going to hate you on Facebook. They must stick to what they believe in and what their dreams are. 

"If we take that away from players then where are we going? They are good rugby players and they had a dream like I did, and I still have, and they must believe in themselves. But they take responsibility for the results and at the moment we are not playing good enough rugby and that is not the dream they want for themselves and the team. 

Photo: Anthony Au-Yeung / www.photosport.nz

"And they must perform to the best of their abilities. A lot of people ask me about all the criticism outside and I tell them we control the controllables. We started out 20 years ago, you believed in something and your father and mother believed in something and it’s your dream. A dream is not always easy, it’s how you stand up when you are being put down and how they keep on fighting. 

These guys are still going to be huge Springboks down the line but they must go back to what they believed 20 years ago and what they want to do. All the criticism they must put aside, take it on the chin, learn from that and come out to play the best rugby that they can.”

There were shades of that best rugby Marais talks about in their 17-10 defeat against the Highlanders last week and while there have been some changes to the team to face the Lions, the desperation and need to change still burns ferociously in the Bulls team.

Marais has handed a Super Rugby debut to Varsity Cup winning wing Sibahle Manxwane who replaces the injured Jamba Ulengo while Jesse Kriel moves to fullback and Jan Serfontein has returned to the starting line-up at outside centre.

Francois Brummer and Springbok scrumhalf Rudy Paige will form a new halfback pairing and Springbok lock Lood de Jager takes over the reins at in the second row from the suspended RG Snyman.


The Star

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