Lood de Jager tries to retrieve the ball against the Hurricanes. Photo: Anton Geyser, BackpagePix

PRETORIA – Outgoing Bulls Super Rugby coach Nollis Marais believes that he is still the right man to take the franchise back to the top, but it will have to be his way or nothing.

Marais was shown the door last week Thursday by the Blue Bulls Company’s board after former All Black coach John Mitchell was appointed as the new Executive of Rugby at Loftus Versfeld.

However, Marais will be afforded the Bulls’ remaining matches in the competition to be at the helm before taking up his position as head coach of the Blue Bulls Currie Cup side.

Marais’ axing comes on the back of the Bulls’ worst season in the competition since 2002, where they have already lost nine of their 12 matches so far.

That includes becoming the first South African side to lose to the Sunwolves and conceding their biggest losing margin at home to the Crusaders a few weeks ago.

After sinking to yet another defeat (34-20) on Saturday to defending champions the Hurricanes, Marais was left lamenting his team’s errors, but more so not allowing himself to accept the job as coach on his own terms.

Marais was a surprise appointment to take over from Frans Ludeke at the end of 2015.

And while many saw it as a natural progression to the main job at Loftus after Marais had coached every other team at the Bulls, the former loose forward was given very little room to manoeuvre, especially in picking his own management team.

“I know exactly what I wouldn’t do next time. If I had to be a head coach again of Super Rugby, I’ll certainly make sure I have all my ducks in a row when I do that,” he said.

Nollis Marais says he has learnt a lot on and off the field as Bulls coach. Photo: Muzi Ntombela, BackpagePix

“So I’ve learnt a lot about off-the-field management, player management and how to do things so I can get the best of my personality out there.

“Heyneke (Meyer) said to me that stage that you are making a mistake because you know how you are if things are not a hundred percent your way, you are not going to be happy about it.

“And he tells me every day, ‘I told you, I told you’.

“So I learnt a lot and I can only get better from there. I’m looking forward and I’m going to work hard for the next two to three years. I still believe I was the right man for the job, but I’ve made mistakes. We all make mistakes and we can only get better from that.”

Marais will continue working closely with Mitchell when the New Zealander returns back to the capital to take up his position midway through July.

It seems as though Marais will do away with some of his coaching staff that include former Bulls captain Anton Leonard (forwards coach), former Bok hooker Gary Botha (scrum coach) and even backline coach David Manuel.

Captain Adriaan Strauss says the players haven’t had time to digest what has transpired in the past few days, but that the show of character and a fighting spirit in their loss to the Hurricanes shows their willingness to contribute to the new order under Mitchell.

Bulls captain Adriaan Strauss says the players are excited about changes at the franchise following the appointment of John Mitchell. Photo: Anton Geyser, BackpagePix

“We haven’t had an opportunity to sit down and chat. I think taking the last four weeks into consideration, everyone is happy that a call has been made, there’s clarity now,” the former Springbok skipper said.

“I said it before the game as well, it is not a cliché saying there is a lot of youngsters and the guys want to fight, but I think everyone is excited to contribute. We’ve seen the results this year and we need to make it better as a group.

“So, (we’re) excited that there is clarity moving forward, and there is still buy-in from all the players.”

The Bulls will now go on a three-week break, but will participate at the World Club 10s competition in Mauritius before finishing off their disastrous Super Rugby campaign with local derbies against the Sharks, Kings and Stormers.

Independent Media

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