They missed out on the play-offs by a point last season, so the Bulls will be keen to go at least a step further in the 2017 Super Rugby competition.
They began their campaign yesterday when they flew to George to begin a 13-day training camp.
The Bulls ended second in the African Conference 1, nine points behind the Stormers in the 2016 tournament. They may still have qualified for the play-offs through the wildcard system, but in the overall South African Conference, they finished in fourth position as the Lions topped the log, followed by the Stormers and Sharks, who all made it through to the last-eight.
Marais’ team made some progress with their attacking game in 2016, but one of the main reasons they did not make the play-offs was the absence of star flyhalf Handré Pollard.
The Springbok pivot picked up a serious knee ligament injury during training in early February, which ruled him out for the rest of the year. Pollard decided to have an operation to sort out a shoulder problem as well.
But the good news for the Bulls is that the 22-year-old has been cleared to return to training and will be part of the George camp. The Bulls hope that Pollard will be able to play in a pre-season friendly against a South African Super Rugby team on January 28 in Harare, Zimbabwe.
After that, the Bulls will travel to Brisbane, Australia for a warm-up game against New Zealand outfit the Chiefs on February 8, while they will also participate in the Brisbane 10s tournament a few days later.