Marais: Bulls targeting perfect start
REACTION: Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais believes that his team cannot afford to concede early points if they are to topple the Sharks.
The men from Pretoria travel to Durban on Saturday for eagerly awaited Currie Cup Round Four match-up.
The Bulls outscored the Eastern Province Kings by seven tries to five en route to a 49-35 victory at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria last Friday.
However, they continued with their lack of accuracy from the kick-off as they found themselves trailing by 14 points after conceding two tries in the opening five minutes.
Marais told reporters in Pretoria that his team cannot afford to repeat these same mistakes against the Sharks.
"Against Western Province, Cheetahs and Kings, the first few minutes we had charge downs in all three of those games or missed a kick-off and we put ourselves under pressure," the Bulls mentor said.
"Whether it is a missed kick-off or a bad exit, we have worked hard to make sure that everyone understands what the plan is and we have put things in place to make sure that we get a better start.
"A good start in Durban will be important for us because they [the Sharks] are a side playing well on confidence at the moment," explained Marais.
Marais added that the Bulls will be looking to play the territory game and make the right decisions in the right areas of the field on Saturday.
"Against Western Province, we were far ahead and the last two games we have been fighting to get ahead and that is something we are looking at, making sure that we get out of our areas when we receive the ball and play from there," said Marais.
Bulls versus Sharks games are always a physical contest and Marais further added that the Pretoria-based outfit will look to protect their ball and put in a big effort on defence come Saturday.
"It was not good enough last week [a 49-35 victory over the Kings]. We were happy to get away with the five points.
"We had three line-outs in the 22 and we messed up all three of those line-outs, they got the penalty from there and they got into our territory so the more accurate we are the better we will be. We can score tries from anywhere but it's the finishing, the accuracy and game management.
"Fifteen tries in three games is a big issue for us. It's something that Pine [Pienaar, defence coach] is working very hard on.
"We let ourselves down in the last three matches and we need to fix it this weekend because the Sharks will exploit it," explained Marais.
Bulls captain Arno Botha added that he expects the game to be won up front in the battle of the forwards.
"The Sharks are a physical pack of forwards but the backline is very good as well so I think we need to put them under pressure from the start.
"The forwards will play a big role in the game because if we can get some good go-forward ball we can leave it for our backs and they can finish it.
"So I just think if the forwards are going to fire this week it will be a good game for us," said Botha.
The last time the Bulls played against the Sharks was during the Currie Cup qualifying round in June and on that occasion the Bulls managed to come away with a 22-18 victory in Pretoria.
The Bulls come into this clash sitting in third place on the Currie Cup table with 10 points from three games - which includes two victories and one defeat.
The Sharks have made a perfect start to their Currie Cup campaign as they top the log with 15 points from three games, which includes three bonus-point victories against the Pumas, Griquas and Boland Cavaliers.
By Josh Isaacson