Cape Town – Stedman Gans was perhaps South Africa’s best outside center not long ago.
Gans had forged an excellent midfield tandem with Cornal Hendricks for the Bulls during the Super Rugby Unlocked competition at the height of the Covid-19 lockdown in Mzansi.
Gans was the tournament’s leading try-scorer, prompting Hendricks to declare in late 2020 that the former Blitzbok captain should be selected for the Springboks when they return to action in 2021.
But hamstring and then serious ankle injuries sidelined him for months, and then he was part of the Blitzbok squad at the Tokyo Olympics, and he hasn’t really been used much in midfield at the Bulls since – which has also hurt his chances at national level, as he is unlikely to even make the SA ‘A’ squad that will be announced on Friday.
Gans has played a few games at wing on occasion, but he was given the opportunity to wear the No 13 jersey against Benetton last week, and he delivered once more.
While there were a few defensive blunders, the 25-year-old contributed much-needed bite to the Bulls’ attack in the overwhelming 44-22 bonus-point triumph at Treviso’s Stadio Monigo, which avenged their Rainbow Cup final setback at the same site in June 2021.
Lionel Mapoe, the veteran centre, has done a great job ahead of Gans over the last 12 months and works well with his old Lions teammate Harold Vorster. But, at 34, the former Bok doesn’t have the same speed he had when he used to haul out the ‘rooster’ try celebration at the Cheetahs and Lions, but he still plays an important role in the Bulls setup, particularly as a coach to the juniors, as Canan Moodie recently highlighted.
Gans, on the other hand, has that added mobility that makes him a great threat on attack, and he put in several powerful runs last Friday night to keep the Benetton defense wondering. He’ll be hoping to get another start in the No 13 shirt against the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on Sunday (3pm kickoff), albeit he won’t be facing the injured Am on the opposing side.
In Am’s absence, the Sharks have used a variety of midfield combinations this season, including former Wallabies Ben Tapuai, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, and Marnus Potgieter.
Janse van Rensburg is still suspended for a reckless tackle he committed against Zebre a few weeks ago, therefore Potgieter, who joined the Sharks from the Bulls, will be eager to make a mark against his former team.
However, Gans sees the Sharks game as an excellent opportunity to remind the Bok coaches of his skill and continue to impress Bulls boss Jake White in order to secure selection for the remainder of the season, given there are some significant games coming up in December, including the Champions Cup.