Adriaan Strauss is back to captain the Bulls, and coach Nollis Marais will hope it can galvanise the side against the Hurricanes. Photo: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix
PRETORIA – Today will signal the end of an era at Loftus Versfeld and the beginning of another.

Outgoing Bulls coach Nollis Marais will begin the slow and painful countdown to his exit as Super Rugby coach after what can only be described as a disastrous season for a man whose tenure last year began with so much promise.

As difficult as it will be for him to remain motivated for the remainder of the season after being shown the door this week, he will still have a point to prove that he has always been the right man for the job.

There will be no better opposition than the defending champions, the Hurricanes, for Marais to show he can coach at the highest level in franchise rugby.

But much of what has transpired in the past few months has been the result of a group of players who have failed to come to the party either for Marais or themselves as a team, and today they will need to show they are better than the results that have blighted their Super Rugby campaign.

What begun with so much hope for the future and a return to the glory days for the Bulls must end well with Marais at least being given a chance to feel what it is like to defeat a New Zealand side.

And what will be more important for the players is to impress new boss John Mitchell, who will be watching from the lofty terraces at Loftus this afternoon in what will be the beginning of the sifting process of a new and promising era.

While Marais seems to share a close understanding and mutual respect with Mitchell, it will be the playing personnel that will try and carve a new future for themselves today.

Whether that future is with Mitchell and the Bulls going forward will depend largely on how they show some fight and commitment to the battle against the men from the New Zealand capital.

Just like Marais, Mitchell is big on playing the game at break-neck speed, and that is exactly what the Bulls will be require to do especially with ball-in-hand if they are to come close to posing a threat to the Hurricanes.

Judging by their string of results, the stars in their team – notably the Barrett and Savea brothers – it may see Bulls facing another hiding.

Teams For Loftus

Bulls: Warrick Gelant, Duncan Matthews, Jan Serfontein, Burger Odendaal, Jesse Kriel, Tian Schoeman, Rudy Paige, Hanro Liebenberg, Jannes Kirsten, Ruan Steenkamp, Lood de Jager, Jason Jenkins, Jacobie Adriaanse, Adriaan Strauss (captain), Lizo Gqoboka.

Bench: Jaco Visagie, Pierre Schoeman, Conraad van Vuuren, Abongile Nonkontwana, Nic de Jager, Ivan van Zyl, Tony Jantjies, Ulrich Beyers.

Hurricanes: Jodie Barrett, Wes Goosen, Vince Aso, Ngani Laumape, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara (captain), Brad Shields, Ardie Savea, Vaea Fifita, Sam Lousi, Mark Abbott, Jeff To’omaga-Allen, Ricky Riccitelli, Loni Uhila.

Bench: Leni Apisai, Chris Eves, Ben May, Reed Prinsep, Callum Gibbins, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Otere Black, Ben Lam.

Pretoria News Weekend

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