Marais: This is how you beat Kiwi teams
REACTION: The Bulls will not discard their expansive approach, but they will be a lot more pragmatic in next year's Super Rugby.
The Bulls, who have not finished higher than ninth in Super Rugby in the past three years, believe that with the right approach they can build on a relatively successful Currie Cup season.
Despite losing 16-36 to the Free State Cheetahs in the Final in Bloemfontein at the weekend, coach Nollis Marais believes the Bulls are an improving side.
However, they will have a far tougher route to the Super Rugby play-offs next year - having to face the five New Zealand franchises (Hurricanes, Highlanders, Crusaders, Chiefs and Blues), as opposed to playing against the much weaker Australian sides.
The Bulls beat the Western Force (in Perth), Reds (in Pretoria) and Rebels (in Pretoria), while losing to the Waratahs (in Sydney) and Brumbies (in Canberra) on their way to a ninth-place finish.
Marais is adamant that playing against Kiwis requires some 'tempering' of your approach and that 'all-out attack' is not the way to go.
"I always believe if you want to beat New Zealand teams you have to play in the right areas of the field and be accurate," he said of a more demanding 2017 campaign.
"If you look at the [Bledisloe Cup] Test [in Auckland at the weekend], Australia did all the playing and New Zealand scored from their mistakes," he said of a game in which the Wallabies had almost 70 percent of the possession and trailed just 10-15 after 50 minutes.
In the last half-hour the All Blacks scored three tries to race to a 37-10 victory.
"You can play from anywhere, but if you are not accurate they will punish you," Marais said of the ability of New Zealand teams to play from turnovers.
"We will have the belief to play from the right areas and create momentum from that," he said of the Bulls' approach in 2017.
"We do believe in playing more expansive rugby, but we will try and play in the right areas."
Marais said the Bulls will take a break and regather on November 14 to start their Super Rugby pre-season build-up.
Both Marais and captain Arno Botha spoke of the "disappointment" in the wake of their loss to the Cheetahs.
However, they believe the loss will make them "stronger" and assist with the growth the team has shown in the Currie Cup competition.
"Last year we ended second on the [Currie Cup] standings, but lost at home [to Western Province in the semifinal]," Marais said.
"This year we have gone a step further and I am proud of the guys," he added.
"We were definitely beaten by the better side on the day and obviously we are very disappointed.
"We will get back a few guys for Super Rugby next year, but it was also good for the youngsters to come through and they have played well.
"Getting into a Final would have been an experience and I'm happy that we got to the final but I am not happy about the way that we played. The guys need to learn from this and I believe they will be better for it going forward."
Botha also felt the growth shown in the last 12 months will ensure the Bulls have a sound platform from which to launch their 2017 campaign.
"We went through the same thing last year and came face-to-face with the same situation this year and we were better this year," Botha said.
"Next year we might find ourselves in the same situation with 43 000 people and we will handle it better because you've seen it before and you don't want it to happen again.
"We are a growing team and it has been a good season for us."