Nollie Marais fired as Blue Bulls coach; John Mitchell takes over
The Bulls’ defeat in the Currie Cup on Saturday was the last straw as dwindling ticket sales and lacklustre performances put major pressure on the BBCO
The financially strained Blue Bulls Company (BBCO) has effectively sacked head coach Nollis Marais despite a statement saying he is "on leave" after yet another abject performance at the weekend.
The Blue Bulls lost 41-40 at home against the Free State Cheetahs on Saturday— their third Currie Cup loss of the campaign — clearly the last straw for the BBCO board as supporter numbers continue to dwindle.
The Bulls have won no meaningful silverware since the claiming the 2010 Super Rugby title and they are suffering because of it.
Earlier this year‚ at SA Rugby’s annual general meeting (AGM)‚ the Blue Bulls Rugby Union (BBRU) asked for a change to the SA Rugby constitution allowing for 100% outside ownership of unions.
Currently unions can have up to 74% in private equity ownership.
The BBRU sought an amendment to allow 100% outside ownership of the union so it could sell all its shares in BBCO‚ its commercial subsidiary‚ to an equity partner.
The resolution was not put to a vote because the BBRU didn’t give 60 days notice as per the constitution.
"We are under financial pressure in the sense that we have seen a decline in season ticket holders and attendances because fans are much more selective about which games they come to‚" BBRU chief executive Eugene Hare told Times Media at the AGM.
"The product and the tough economic times are contributing factors. Companies are cutting back on luxuries like corporate suits and of course the team’s performances have an influence too."
Poor results are not helping the situation and Marais is the obvious target.
Newly appointed rugby director John Mitchell was the one that probably pulled the trigger.
He stood back and allowed the flailing Marais one last chance to redeem himself in the Currie Cup‚ after a dismal Super Rugby campaign‚ but his time was up.
Results have not improved and the likeable Marais‚ despite the press release calling it "leave", has been sacked.
Mitchell will take over the day-to-day coaching of the Bulls team while there has also been a major reshuffle of the backroom staff.
Mitchell was already working on attack with the Blue Bulls but was only slated to become head coach during next year’s Super Rugby campaign.
That change has been accelerated.
He will now assume the head coaching duties while Hayden Groepes has been elevated from under-19 head coach to the senior team’s skills and kicking coach.
University of Pretoria coach Pote Human will take charge of the line-outs while Gary Botha remains in charge of the scrums. Pine Pienaar will control defence across all the union’s teams.
Anton Leonard and David Manuel‚ the Super Rugby forward’s and back coaches respectively‚ have been re-assigned as under-21 coaches.
Barend van Graan‚ CEO of the BBCO‚ explained that these changes were the next step in the union’s turnaround strategy.
"We are working hard to ensure the sustainable and long-term success of the Vodacom Bulls and Blue Bulls‚ as we continue striving towards achieving success and restoring trust and faith in our brand‚" Van Graan said.
"I believe this step furthermore grants us the opportunity to cross pollinate within our structures‚ ensuring what coaches have learnt whilst being involved at senior rugby levels is transferred throughout the entire system and structure‚ benefiting at all levels.
"We urge our supporters and fans to rally behind the team by coming out and showing their support."