Marais expects 'epic' Currie Cup Final
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais believes that Saturday's Currie Cup Final between the Bulls and the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein is shaping up to be another classic encounter between the two local rivals.
The last time the Bulls played the Cheetahs in the Currie Cup final in Bloemfontein was back in 2006 and on that occasion the scores were all tied up at 25 points apiece at full-time, before the game went into 20 minutes of extra time with the final score ending in a 28-28 draw which meant that the trophy was shared between the two sides.
The Bulls most recent match against the Cheetahs was during the Currie Cup round-robin phase of the tournament in August 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.
The Cheetahs are playing with plenty of confidence at the moment, having topped the Currie Cup table with 39 points from eight matches played, which included eight wins on the trot. They outscored the Golden Lions by six tries to three, en route to a 55-17 victory in their Currie Cup semifinal match which was played in Bloemfontein last weekend.
Speaking to reporters in Pretoria, Marais said that the Bulls will have to do the basics well and make sure that they protect the ball at the breakdown if they are to give themselves a shot of winning Saturday’s Currie Cup Final.
"I think when we played them [Free State Cheetahs] the previous time [20-43 defeat in August] we were not good. Three times on their tryline we lost the ball. Ox Nche [Retshegofaditswe Nche] ran like Jamba Ulengo down the wing and scored a try - we were not good.
"We gave them turnover ball to play from and they fed on that. They are a side with a lot of confidence. They got good star players, guys who are in form.
"If we going to give a lot of turnovers away we going to suffer, but if we can play and minimise the turnovers, we are also good at keeping the ball, then it is going to be an interesting game," explained Marais.
Marais added that he is aware of the talent which the Cheetahs have in their team, having previously coached both locks Reniel Hugo and Justin Basson.
"It's going to be an interesting set-piece battle.
"Reniel Hugo has played for me, I know how good he is in the line-outs.
"Justin Basson was at the Bulls, so he knows the system.
"It's going to be a very good game. I think it's going to be an epic game," said Marais.
This is the Bulls first Currie Cup Final which they will be participating in since they last won the tournament in 2009, after beating the Free State Cheetahs 36-24 in the final which was played in Pretoria.
The Bulls head into the Currie Cup Final against the Cheetahs on the back of a 36-30 victory over Western Province in the second Currie Cup semifinal which was played in Pretoria last weekend.
The last time the Cheetahs won the Currie Cup was back in 2007 after they beat the Lions 20-18 in the Final which was played in Bloemfontein.
By Josh Isaacson