They will have to go about it the hard way as the Bulls have to face the difficult New Zealand teams‚ with their campaign starting with a trip to Cape Town on February 25 for a date with the Stormers.
The Bulls blew hot and cold against the Australian sides and were their own worst enemy in terms of not reaching the play-offs.
“Reaching the play-offs is non-negotiable and we want to win the Super Rugby tournament‚” Marais said.
“This year we’ve got into a reasonable groove and we’ve decided what we’ve wanted to do.
“We’ve got good depth in our squad that is capable of going all the way but we have to make the play-offs.
“That’s our main aim. Our aim is 2018 but if we win this year‚ then why shouldn’t we give it a shot‚ but the play-offs have to be made.
“It’s funny that out of our first seven games‚ there’s only one that we play at home but facing the Stormers is always interesting.
“I want to go to Cape Town and beat them. Last time we were they beat us 33-9 and we really want to prepare well for that game.
“If you look at that specific game‚ it was 9-6 with only 20 minutes left and the whole game changed.
“We’re looking forward to that game and we’ve also got a bit of a score to settle with the Cheetahs as well in Bloemfontein.”
A moderately good season for Marais’s charges will involve having their leaders in Handre Pollard and Adriaan Strauss to call on for the best part of the season.
The latter is freed of his Springbok duties‚ even though he will not start the season in Cape Town due to injury.
The former missed the whole of 2016 through a knee injury.
It allowed Marais the whole season to test his depth at 10 but for the benefit of the team’s and the Springbok’s cause‚ a fully fit and firing Pollard is a necessity.
Marais also wants to ensure his team will utilise broken field play and quick ball far better than they did last season.
“Handre’s put in a lot of work off the field and he’s an option for us as Bulls captain.
“But he needs to be 100 percent fit and also be able to take all the hits and the contact‚ and we can go from there.
“Tian Schoeman is looking good and so is Tony Jantjies.
“The latter looks like he’s in the best form he’s ever been in but being the lead No10 is not easy here‚” Marais said
“A lot of teams get set-pieces but if you know to use broken field play very well‚ then that’s a different dimension.
“The New Zealand sides kick to you because they know they want to use broken field play to expose you on defence when you kick it back to them.
“Conditioning and managing game tempos are things we also want to improve.”