Pretoria - Bulls coach Nollis Marais says he understands the frustration of the franchise's fans this year because he used to be one of them.
The Bulls have lost seven of their 10 matches under Marais this season with the criticism of Marais growing stronger throughout the campaign.
The task doesn't get any easier this week, with the 2007, 2009 and 2010 champions taking on the Lions at Ellis Park.
Marais, after naming his side in Pretoria on Thursday, said it was important for the side to accept full responsibility for their results this season, but it was also important for supporters to acknowledge that this was a young Bulls side capable of achieving big things in the future.
The Bulls coach certainly doesn't lack passion, and on Thursday he gave a heart-felt account of what he and the players had gone through this season.
"It's not easy being criticised every week and for the players as well," he said.
"A lot of players say they don't read newspapers, but they're lying. It's been a tough two weeks for us.
"Let's take responsibility for where we are at the moment. We didn't play good rugby this year and we were very inconsistent.
"We always said this was going to be a young team. We knew from the beginning that this was going to be a tough year for us, but a lot of these guys will go on and win a lot of Super Rugby games.
"It's not an excuse ... I still believe that if they get some games under the belt, this is going to be an excellent side in 2018/2019 if we can keep these youngsters together."
Marais then spoke to the fans, and he said he understood where they were coming from.
"I've been a Bulls fan all my life. If the Bulls didn't play well, I was also on the sideline unhappy about it," he said.
"I understand the Bulls supporters' frustration ... they're very passionate people. The only thing I can ask them is to support the guys and stay behind this young team. They must just know that the team never goes out to play badly."
The coach then spoke from a personal perspective.
"There's a lot of things being said about me being fired and the players not playing well," he said.
"I think when we (the players and coach) started 20 years ago we all had a dream. You know that if you want to live out your dream and play top flight sport there is going to be criticism.
"There are going to be people unhappy about certain things. It's not always going to be easy, but if you're not willing to take the punishment and the criticism then we must tell our kids from the beginning not to dream.
Marais said that, even though it may be difficult, his players needed to stand up in the face of adversity.
"They must stick to what they believe in ... if we take that away from players then where are we going? They are good rugby players ... they had a dream a long time ago, the same as I did, and they must believe in themselves," he said.
"They take responsibility for themselves and they know that they're not playing good enough rugby.
"People ask me about all of the criticism from outside and I tell them that we control the controllables.
"You started something 20 years ago, your father and your mother believed in you ... it's your dream. A dream is not always easy.
"It's how you stand up when you've been put down and keep fighting. These guys are still going to be huge Springboks down the line ... but they must take it on the chin, learn from that and come out and play their best rugby."
Saturday's match at Ellis Park kicks off at 17:15.