PRETORIA - Pride. That is what secured the Bulls an unlikely 30-17 win over the Sharks in Durban on Friday night and it will be all they have to play for in their remaining matches against the Southern Kings and Stormers.
Normally, beating the Sharks would have been a victory worth crowing about but instead there was something hollow about Friday’s win as it was meaningless to their failed campaign and came too late to save the job of coach Nollis Marais, his assistants and a lot of the under-performing players.
Marais, who will be vacating the seat of head coach at the end of the season, was satisfied that what he had been preaching all season long came to fruition on the field but his celebrations were muted with the win coming after the horse has bolted.
At the same time, though, Marais believes his team needed to win in light of the disastrous season they’ve endured and will now be playing to restore their dented pride.
Marais revealed that there had been some serious soul searching amongst the team during the June international break and the team faced their demons head on in an effort to close off the campaign on a high before the arrival John Mitchell.
“We needed a good win,” said Marais. “We sat down after what happened before the break and saw where we made mistakes and spoke about rectifying them.
"We worked hard in certain areas and put things in place. And the fact that we are no longer in it, we needed to create something else for the guys to play for. We had a Test match approach to the game and we told the guys that it is still a derby and we still want to win every game.
“The guys responded well to that even though we had the challenge of the many injuries that hit us before the game. We need to play for pride as well. The things we wanted to implement the whole season just didn’t work out for us.”
Marais has made no secret of the fact that he wants his team to produce more of the same in the next two games at Loftus Versfeld with the focus being on the intensity with which they play while keeping the lines of communication open.
“We must just continue with what we did over the weekend with the good reaction speed and intensity. Obviously, communication on the field will be crucial and that is another area we must work on.”
The Bulls face an injury crisis at flyhalf after Tony Jantjies sustained a rib injury against the Sharks and with Handre Pollard and Francois Brummer already out for the rest of the season, Marais will look to Tian Schoeman and juggle between Tinus de Beer and Joshua Stander as back up.
Namibian international and loose forward Renaldo Bothma is likely to miss the remainder of the season as well after suffering what is believed to be a fractured forearm while wing Travis Ismaiel is back in the selection mix.