Cape Town — Early last year, Stedman Gans was one of the stars at the Bulls.
He had enjoyed stellar Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup campaigns, and was even mentioned by centre partner Cornal Hendricks as the best outside centre in South Africa.
I had picked him in my Currie Cup Team of the Season ahead of Lukhanyo Am, where my comment was: “The former Blitzbok star was a throwback to the outside centres of yesteryear – he had so much time on the ball, a devastating sidestep and tremendous pace. His Sevens skills also ensured he anticipated the play smartly. It was a huge pity that a hamstring niggle kept him out of the semi-final and final.”
Then he sustained a serious ankle injury that nearly prevented Gans from being ready for the Blitzbok squad for the Tokyo Olympics. He made it to Japan, and returned to the Bulls afterwards.
In his absence, though, Bulls director of rugby Jake White signed former Lions stalwarts Harold Vorster and Lionel Mapoe, and they have since become the first-choice centre pair in the United Rugby Championship team.
Hendricks now plays off the United Rugby Championship bench, and Gans has had to be satisfied with the Currie Cup team. “Most guys just want to play in a competition where they don’t feel like extras, and they don’t feel like they are just making up numbers – but that they are actually there for a purpose,” the 25-year-old midfielder said from Loftus on Wednesday.
“And we are fortunate that coach Jake is taking the Currie Cup very seriously, so we are fielding a good side every weekend in the Currie Cup. It’s also good for you to put your hand up to play URC.”
Gans said that while there isn’t anything that he has been told to work on in his game, he will be prepared should he be selected for the United Rugby Championship team again, and that he is combining well with Marco Jansen van Vuren in the Currie Cup team.
“We didn’t talk about anything specific. I must be consistent and ready when my opportunity comes, and keep on improving on my game and add value to the team. And learn from these older guys, because they do have a lot of experience. It’s just a question of Lionel and Cornal are playing very well when they get an opportunity, so there is no reason to make any changes,” he said.
“Marco and I are playing well together, and we also train well together. He is enjoying the No 12 position, and I don’t know specifically if that is his position.
“But to play with Marco – obviously because he played No 9 before, he has an unbelievable pass. That gives me the ability to drift a bit on the passes and to play a bit wider.”
The Bulls are again setting the pace in the Currie Cup, and currently top the standings with 32 points after eight matches – six ahead of the unbeaten Free State Cheetahs, who have two games in hand.
This comes after Saturday’s clash against the Sharks at Kings Park was cancelled by SA Rugby on Wednesday due to the flooding in KwaZulu-Natal, and the governing body stated that there was no alternative option to reschedule the match, which has now been declared a draw, with each team awarded two log points.
“Due to the heavy flooding in KwaZulu-Natal and the considerable loss of life and infrastructure damage across the province, and out of respect to their community in the face of the disaster the province is enduring, the two teams have agreed to cancel this encounter,” SA Rugby said.
But when the Bulls do get back onto the pitch, Gans hopes for a better defensive effort.
“We can score points, but we gave away too many points against WP (in their last match). Those were soft moments, and it’s something that we have spoken about – just to maintain that concentration and stay in the system, and not to have soft moments and give away easy points,” he said.