Given an opportunity at outside centre by coach Jake White, Springbok Sevens stalwart Stedman Gans has become one of the Bulls’ star players in their successful 2020/21 campaign and while he achieves some goals, he says there are more boxes he wants to tick in the future.
The 23-year-old Gans, born in Vredenburg on the Cape West Coast but educated at Waterkloof and Tuks, played three Currie Cup games off the bench for the Blue Bulls in 2019, but it was a major surprise when White entrusted him in Super Rugby Unlocked with the No 13 jersey. And it was a masterstroke as Gans has brought considerable flair, skill and defensive nous to the midfield alongside another former Sevens star in Cornal Hendricks.
“The plan was always to come back to XVs and I’ve really enjoyed the last year with the Bulls; I’m definitely happy with the way things have gone,” Gans, who represented the Blitzbokke from 2016 to 2019, said.
“I’m not surprised that us Sevens guys have done so well because the way XVs is going, it definitely suits the Sevens guys more these days. More speed and skill are coming in, power still plays a big role but skill has a big influence now.
“Because I play at No 13, a big motivation for moving to Sevens was to sharpen my defence, my tracking ability, and that’s a big focus in Sevens. I think we’ve shown that Sevens players can come in and make a big difference in the 15-man game. A guy like Cornal is a Springbok, he has played for a long time, at a few places, and you get a lot from the experience and calmness that he brings.”
Looking ahead to the Currie Cup semi-final against the Lions at Loftus Versfeld next weekend, Gans said the do-or-die nature of the Sevens circuit will certainly help him prepare for the nerves and the pressure of knockout rugby.
“There are certain things I’ve learned from Sevens for if you’re in these situations, these pressure positions, I’m fortunate to have been in those a few times. So I will just focus on the processes and not the outcome, and there are certain mental triggers and I will use those in the next week.
“We are very aware that the Lions will bring their A-game in the semi-final, so we must prepare well and be at our best as well. We expect their best game of the season from the Lions, they’re definitely going to bring their A-game so we have to too if we are going to play in the final,” Gans said.
As for the rest of 2021, it is an Olympic year and Gans would like to be in the mix for a return to the Springbok Sevens squad.
“The Olympic Games are a definite goal, but closer to the time those details will be tightened up. But I have spoken to coach Jake White and it is his intention and mine to give me the opportunity to go to Japan if the Blitzbokke want me. It will be a very difficult decision if the Springboks want me at the same time, I will have to make that decision if we get there,” Gans said.