Marais: Pressure is on the Cheetahs
REACTION: Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais believes that the Free State Cheetahs will head into the Currie Cup Final with plenty of pressure on their shoulders, after defeating the Golden Lions in their semifinal in Bloemfontein.
The Cheetahs finished top of the Currie Cup Premier Division table, in first place, with 39 points, from eight matches played, which included eight wins on the trot. They then outscored the Lions by six tries to three, en route to a mammoth 55-17 victory on Saturday.
In the second semifinal, the Bulls were made to work hard for a place in next weekend's Currie Cup Final as replacement scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl scored a try in the 78th minute against Western Province in Pretoria, which sent the Pretoria-based side into their first Currie Cup Final since they last won the tournament in 2009.
The Bulls finished the Currie Cup Premier Division in second position on the table with 30 points from eight matches played, which included six wins and two defeats.
Speaking to journalists at the post-match press conference in Pretoria on Saturday, Marais said that the Cheetahs are a young side playing with plenty of confidence and the Bulls know the enormity of the task which awaits them in Bloemfontein next weekend.
"I think the Cheetahs are an excellent side," said Marais. "They haven't lost a game - the Lions [2015 Currie Cup champions] didn't lose one game last year and they won the Currie Cup, so all the momentum is with them [Cheetahs] at the moment.
"But I think our side is playing good rugby and I think that we will have one or two plans up our sleeve.
"That's a young side that is playing with a lot of confidence and I must admit I think that our side is also a young side playing with a lot of confidence, so it's going to be an interesting match. We know how good they are, so we won't go down there [Bloemfontein] and underestimate them."
The Bulls were sent packing with a defeat against Western Province at the semifinal stage of last year's tournament and Marais added that the Bulls have done their job in winning their home semifinal and now the weight of expectation will shift to the Cheetahs.
"Dobbo [Western Province coach John Dobson] said this week as well, the pressure was on us - home game, so the pressure is definitely on them [Cheetahs]," explained Marais.
The Bulls most recent match against the Cheetahs was during the Currie Cup Premier Division round-robin phase and on that occasion, the Cheetahs outscored the Bulls by six tries to two, en route to a 43-20 bonus-point victory in Bloemfontein in August.
By Josh Isaacson