Bye, bye Adriaan; Hello Hanro
REACTION: Adriaan Strauss's days as Bulls captain appear to be numbered. Hanro Liebenberg has been earmarked as the struggling franchise's long-term solution.
Bulls coach Nollis Marais did not mince his words when he spoke about the debut of Liebenberg as Bulls captain - in the heartbreaking 10-17 loss to the Highlanders at a soaking wet Loftus Versfeld at the weekend.
Strauss, who gave up the Springbok captaincy after he retired from the international game at the end of last year, was named Bulls captain for 2017.
However, he had an injury-enforced delay to the start of his season and has struggled to get the desired results. Strauss's last match was the record 24-62 home loss to the Crusaders.
He was subsequently ruled out by injury and Liebenberg took over last week.
Marais admitted they are going to invest in youth to salvage the wreck that has become the Bulls and put them in the firing line for a possible Super Rugby cull.
"This is the youngest Super Rugby side we have ever put out on the field and I am very proud of them," he said of the side's gutsy display in the loss to the seasoned Highlanders outfit.
"They fought for 80 minutes.
However, it was when he spoke of the captain that the hints that Strauss has limited time in the team - both as hooker and leader.
"I told Hanro [Liebenberg] he is going to be the Bulls' captain for a long time," Marais said.
"Long after my departure [from the Bulls], he will still be the captain.
"He is the type of character that can do the job.
"I have bee grooming him [as captain] since last year and by 2018 he will be great.
"He has enormous potential and the Bulls have a great leader in him."
Liebenberg described his captaincy debut as an "emotional day".
"I appreciate the opportunity given to me," he said, adding: "But I am disappointed with the loss."
Marais also gave lock Rudolph Strydom his unconditional support, despite the second row forwards red card for foul play - when he charged recklessly into a ruck and collided with the head of an opponent.
The Bulls, who had worked their way back into the game, were level 10-all, but ultimately lost to a last-minute try.
"RG [Strydom] is 21," Marais said.
"His intent wasn't to hit the guy in the head. He had an excellent game and played well, he made a mistake and we lost the game.
"You are talking of 21-year-old children playing against men," he said of the Bulls' performance against the season combination of Highlanders.
"I have a lot of respect for him [Snyman] and he will learn from this. Apart from the one mistake he made, he had an excellent game."
Marais said he "fully believes" in the youngsters and players in the squad.
"The youngsters showed their potential," the Bulls coach said, adding: "I always said in 2018 the youngsters will come through.
"Obviously it is not a good season."
He again said the pressure will not ease, despite the improve performance, saying the board appointed him and it is their decision to make a call on his future.
"I will respect the board's decision."