PRETORIA – In a last ditch effort to salvage his team’s ailing Super Rugby season, Bulls coach Nollis Marais has called time on the team’s rotation policy and will play his strongest side.
The change in mindset for the under pressure Marais comes on the back of the team having their worst start to a Super Rugby season in over 15 years after losing five of their six matches.
Marais revealed on Tuesday that he would now select his strongest personnel ahead of a very tricky encounter against the Jaguares at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
While Marais will be looking at his strongest players to turn around the team’s bad run, he will also have to contend with the mutually agreed policy of resting his Springbok contracted players leaving him with a selection dilemma in the coming two matches against the Jaguares and Cheetahs.
Springbok prop Trevor Nyakane is yet to be rested having started in all of the Bulls games while centre Jan Serfontein is another that is due some rest time even though his season started a bit later because of injury.
Lock Lood de Jager and flyhalf Handre Pollard were rested last week in the match against the Sunwolves and are set to return to face the might of the Jaguares in only the second home match for the men in blue.
“I have told the players that the rotation policy is out of the door. I think the rotation policy works if everyone is on the same page and the players now know that we will no longer be rotating. We’ve given enough chances through the rotation policy, we now want to play our best team in every match. We are obviously in a position where we have contracted Springboks who have to be rested after every five games,” Marais said after the Bulls first training session since returning from Tokyo.
There has been growing unhappiness from the Bulls faithful at how the team has performed and Marais admits that there is a lot of pressure on the team and as much as he is taking responsibility as the head coach, the players must also shoulder some of the blame for what has gone wrong.
“Obviously there are certain things that we (management) can control and players must take responsibility for things that we put in place which they are not doing. We’ve had our meetings and they know exactly what we need from them and they must also take responsibility for some of the actions they do on the field. As coaches and as head coach of the Bulls, I take responsibility for that as well and to the best of my abilities we will try sort it out before the weekend.”
The Bulls problems may look greater than they actually are and as much as Marais described their loss against the Sunwolves “as the worst Super Rugby I’ve ever seen”, the former Bulls junior teams mentor believes that it is the small things that they need to fix for them to get back to winning ways.
“We have to improve on different bases. Our mauls are not up to standard and it is something that we did well against the Sunwolves and something we need to work hard on. And we must also focus on finishing the opportunities that we have. We make small mistakes that put us under pressure and that is obviously something we need to fix,” Marais said.
Meanwhile the injury list continues to grow at Loftus with former Springbok flank Jacques Potgieter ruled out for Saturday’s match because of a hamstring injury while their loose forwards stock runs thin with Ruan Steenkamp (knee) and Arno Botha (knee) set to be out of action for at least a month.