Nollis Marais, the Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup and U21 coach, will pick up the pieces of the failed Super Rugby campaign and guide the team through this year’s Currie Cup, franchise CEO Barend van Graan announced on Saturday night after the first defeat to the Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld in the history of the Sanzar competition.
The 43-year-old Marais has steadily risen up the ranks at Loftus Versfeld, coaching the U21s since 2011 and the Vodacom Cup team since 2013, while also winning the Varsity Cup with Tuks in 2012 and 2013.
Who will coach the Bulls in next year’s Super Rugby competition is still up in the air, however, with Van Graan describing the decision as “an ongoing process”.
Ludeke still has a shade more than a year left on his contract with the Bulls and there is speculation that the two-time Super Rugby winner will move upstairs to take up a director of rugby post.
“It is a big privilege for me, a tough competition lies ahead and I look forward to taking that on. I heard today about my appointment, I’ve been busy preparing for the U21 leagues, so it’s been a very quick five hours in a man’s life.
“As far as my coaching philosophy goes, for me, if you are being paid R1 to play, then you must really play, for the jersey before anything else, but also for the union and the people who come to watch. I will try very hard to bring that attitude to the team,” Marais said on Saturday night.
The Bulls’ reluctance to come out and reveal their long-term plans is mostly because there are still too many variables that haven’t been decided yet. There has been speculation that if Heyneke Meyer does not get an extension to his Springbok contract then the Bulls would be willing to shell out on him as a director of rugby.
His Springbok support team – Johan van Graan, John McFarland and Ricardo Loubscher – could then join him at Loftus Versfeld.
No conversation about the Bulls’ future coaching structure is complete without Victor Matfield joining the debate. The Springbok lock is already part of the coaching set-up and has indicated his desire to succeed Ludeke.