Stedman Gans not thinking about Henco van Wyk as Bulls fix ‘bad habits’ for Lions showdown

The Bulls’ Stedman Gans has enjoyed regular game time for the Bulls this season. Picture: Phill Magakoe / AFP

The Bulls’ Stedman Gans has enjoyed regular game time for the Bulls this season. Picture: Phill Magakoe / AFP

Published Feb 14, 2024


The Bulls have produced four of the four-try bonus points in this season’s United Rugby Championship, which is the joint third most behind Glasgow’s six and Leinster’s five.

Yet, there is a nagging feeling that it could have been a few more across their nine matches, even though they have dotted down the most tries in total – 43 – in the tournament.

It’s something that has been zoomed in on during their fortnight off, having held off the Lions 30-28 at Loftus Versfeld on January 27.

They will face their Gauteng rivals once more, this time at Ellis Park, on Saturday (3pm kick-off), where they will try to entrench their current fourth spot on the log.

But the Lions have the firepower to pounce on the Bulls’ missed opportunities, so the Pretoria side have been fine-tuning their finishing on the training pitch.

“I think it’s a lot of detail here and there in our game model – I don’t think it’s one specific thing. As the season progresses and you have to constantly focus on the next game and next team and what they do well, your own detail in your attack and defence takes a back seat a bit,” Bulls outside centre Stedman Gans said yesterday.

“In this break, we just took the time to go and revisit the finer detail of our game model, and I think we’ve sharpened that up now.

“I think it’s small things. It’s a short line here, it’s a pass there ... It’s an option, it’s patience. It’s playing in the right areas – a combination of all those small things.

“If we can get that right, we give ourselves an opportunity to score points. As the season goes on, you tend to fall into bad habits – you tend to focus on your opponent and how you are going to counter what they are going to do.

“In a time like this, it’s a great opportunity to revisit those small things: how we want to run our shape, what options we want to pick and where on the field.

“Those types of conversations happened a lot over the last two weeks.”

Former Blitzbok captain Gans has been enjoying consistent game time in the No 13 jersey this season – “loved it, loved it” – and his clash with Lions counterpart Henco van Wyk could be one to savour this weekend.

While Lukhanyo Am and Jesse Kriel are the established outside centres in the Bok squad, Gans and Van Wyk could be pushing for higher honours this season. But the 26-year-old Bulls midfielder doesn’t want to get sidetracked from the team’s goals.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s an encounter against Henco – I don’t think about playing against one opponent ever, because you meet that guy so little on the field, actually,” Gans said.

“So, my mindset for this week is just to go out and contribute to the team, do my best and grow as a player and a person. That’s all that’s in my control, really.

“In that (30-28) game, we didn’t really stick to our processes, and that made it difficult for us. If we play in the right areas and we stick to the way we want to play, then we give ourselves a shot to do well.

“They have good attacking threats all around the park. They are a well-rounded team, and very hungry.

“(Sanele) Nohamba there at flyhalf, they have a good kicking game ... All around, they are a team that can put you under pressure in a few different ways to us.

“So, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s one specific thing that they do exceptionally well. They do a lot of things very well, and that’s what puts you under pressure.

“It was a very close game against the Lions. They put us under pressure in a number of parts of the game, and we think we have rectified that now. So, we need to go out and test what we did in the last two weeks.”