Marais backs under-fire Strauss as Bok captain


This is the strong assertion from Bulls coach Nollis Marais, who has come to the defence of his under-fire captain in the aftermath of the Springboks' loss to Argentina in Salta last weekend.

Strauss has been under the microscope since taking over the reins of the national team at the beginning of Allister Coetzee’s tenure as Springbok coach and beyond having his abilities questioned, the hooker has also been burdened with talk about his form, which has dipped significantly this year.

It has been glaringly obvious that the likes of Lions hooker Malcolm Marx, Stormers Bongi Mbonambi and former Southern Kings hooker Edgar Marutlulle, have been better this season, form-wise, than Strauss.

But Marais is against the notion that the embattled No 2 is a bad player and believes that Strauss and Coetzee are being blamed for mistakes being committed by other players and, more importantly, that the Bulls captain is not being afforded the same luxury of time as his predecessors.

“Yes, I think so (he is undervalued). There are a lot of players making individual errors in the side that’s putting the team under pressure and he has to take the brunt for it. Unfortunately, your captain and coach take a lot of brunt for individual errors and I think if one or two guys didn’t make mistakes, then we would have seen a different result.

“It is (Strauss') fifth game as captain and we should give him the opportunity that we’ve given previous guys to find their feet and a team to build together. I think he is a brilliant captain and at the moment he is taking a lot of flak which he shouldn’t have to,” the Bulls coach said yesterday.

Marais is adamant that Strauss is the perfect candidate to lead the Boks for the remainder of the Rugby Championship and to the end-of-year tour as well and is a vital cog in the rebuilding of the Springbok team as the leader of the pack.

“I think we should stick with him, give him the backing and there is still a lot of rugby to be played. He’s been excellent for our side this season when we were going through some tough times. He picked up his hand and stood up and he was the main reason in helping rebuild the Bulls who had 14 guys making their debuts in Super Rugby this year. He’s an excellent captain and he must be given the opportunity and at the end of the year, if they don’t think he is the right guy, then the coaching staff will make a decision. But I can promise you, he is an excellent captain.”

Marais believes too much has been made from last weekend’s loss against Argentina and he backs the Springboks to eventually come right in the not-too-distant future.

“No, I’m not concerned. I think we have brilliant rugby players. I think we are expecting a lot of results every week and the guys to beat teams by 30 to 40 points. If you look at the Bok side there are a lot of new guys and at certain times in the game they played good rugby. Argentina is also not the same side they were five years ago and I think a lot has been made from the loss.

“I think the Boks will come right and I think Allister has got a plan and a good coaching staff. One or two things need to go their way and the results will come,” said Marais.

Coetzee has continued to show faith in Strauss ahead of their Championship tour Down Under with Elton Jantjies set to tour with the side even though suffering from a groin injury, while Lwazi Mvovo and Francois Hougaard have been recalled to the squad.

Springbok touring squad

Forwards: Lourens Adriaanse, Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Jaco Kriel, Francois Louw, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Oupa Mohoje, Franco Mostert, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Adriaan Strauss (captain), Warren Whiteley

Backs: Damian de Allende, Juan de Jongh, Faf de Klerk, Johan Goosen, Bryan Habana, Francois Hougaard, Elton Jantjies, Jesse Kriel, Lionel Mapoe, Lwazi Mvovo, Rudy Paige, Morne Steyn - The Star

Original source: Marais backs under-fire Strauss as Bok captain