But it was Marais’ reaction after the final whistle and his players sinking in despair into the lush turf at the Free State Stadium that sent out a statement that the Bulls will be back next year better, stronger and ready to ascend to the top.
Marais was obviously not pleased with the manner in which his team performed as they were made to scramble in the defence by the unrelenting Cheetahs' waves of attack, found themselves one man short after Jamba Ulengo got yellow carded in the seventh minute and they seemed to buckle under the pressure of playing in the final.
Saturday’s final was by far one of the Bulls' worst performances of the season and a greater part of it was induced by the brilliance and hunger of the Cheetahs. And it is from this that Marais believes his side learnt a valuable lesson that will stand them in good stead for the future.
“Last year we ended second on the log and went on to lose at home. This year we have gone a step further and I am proud of the guys,” said Marais.
“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 concurred with his coach saying that the team had grown immensely since last year’s Currie Cup campaign and that they will be heavily driven by the pain of finding themselves on the losing side when they look to stake a claim at becoming Currie Cup champions.
“We will need to look at what we missed because it was there for both teams. 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. 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. We are no longer in the building phase of this team and maybe it didn’t show in the final but it showed from Super Rugby to where we ended in the Currie Cup.”
Original source: Bulls will learn from Currie Cup final pain