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Ken Borland

Disappointment for Gans as Bulls are going into final with just 1 change 0

Posted on February 01, 2021 by Ken

The Bulls are going into the Currie Cup final with just one change to their team for the semi-final – Johan Grobbelaar starting at hooker and Schalk Erasmus going to the bench – which means disappointment for Sevens Springbok Stedman Gans.

The outside centre has been one of the stars of the season for the Bulls, but was a late withdrawal from last weekend’s semifinal against the Lions with a hamstring strain. Coach Jake White said on Thursday that Gans has not recovered enough for him to be willing to gamble on selecting him.

“I don’t think Stedman is ready, it would be a helluva risk to play him, especially since there’s often extra time in finals. So he’s not available, it was a tough call for him and I’m sure he’s very disappointed. But I’ve been very happy with Marco Jansen van Vuren as well, he’s defended well, especially against the Lions, who will really stretch and test you. So he has massive confidence at the moment,” White explained.

White chose to deflect a question over what the Bulls had learnt from their loss to the Sharks in their previous meeting, a 32-29 defeat in Durban last month, by saying if one learns more from defeats than from victory, then the Bulls are the “masters of learning” given their failure to win the Currie Cup since 2009.

“We should be the masters of learning then. The Bulls are tired of losing, tired of not playing in finals, so it’s a massive game on Saturday. We’re playing at home, so it’s a great opportunity and there is a tremendous hunger in the side. It’s an incredible achievement to host the final and now the cherry on top would be to win. Remembering that guys like Jean de Villiers and Schalk Burger, two of the best players I ever coached, never won the Currie Cup,” White said.

The 2007 World Cup winning coach acknowledged that winning the Currie Cup would be a highlight of his career, while adding that an international star like Duane Vermeulen had never lifted the famous old trophy as a captain.

“It would mean a lot to me to win because I have great respect for the Currie Cup. And you can see the players’ desire, which is giving them energy and an unbelievable drive to get it right on Saturday. Sometimes it’s great not to have won it before. It’s a great honour to win the Currie Cup, you think about the great players who have drunk out of the trophy …

“It’s a long time since the Bulls last won the Currie Cup and then you look at someone like Duane, who has won the Currie Cup twice and a World Cup, but he’s never won as captain. And the players can see what that means to him, so they are lifting their game. When your captain is a legend like that and he wants it so badly, you’re going to do whatever you have to do,” White said.

Bulls team – David Kriel, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Marco Jansen van Vuren, Cornal Hendricks, Stravino Jacobs, Morné Steyn, Ivan van Zyl, Duane Vermeulen (captain), Elrigh Louw, Marco van Staden, Ruan Nortje, Sintu Manjezi, Trevor Nyakane, Johan Grobbelaar, Lizo Gqoboka. Bench: Schalk Erasmus, Jacques van Rooyen, Mornay Smith, Jan Uys, Arno Botha, Embrose Papier, Chris Smith, Marnus Potgieter.

Given opportunity by Jake, Gans has become a Bulls star 0

Posted on January 21, 2021 by Ken

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 SuperRugby 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. 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,” Gans, who represented the Blitzbokke from 2016 to 2019, said.

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 if we get there,” Gans said.

Bulls likely to bring more fizz to their match against Griquas 0

Posted on October 12, 2020 by Ken

Coach Jake White may have joked this week that because they have lost the element of surprise by using their new expansive approach in their warm-up game against the Sharks a fortnight ago they are going to revert back to “just kicking up-and-unders and Charge!”, but the Bulls are likely to still bring plenty of fizz to their opening Super Rugby Unlocked match against Griquas at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night.

The raw pace of Kurt-Lee Arendse may be missing due to injury, but his replacement on the wing, young David Kriel, showed plenty of finishing ability, and the centre pairing of Cornal Hendricks and Stedman Gans, who did much to mastermind the fantastic backline display against the Sharks on SuperFan Saturday, are still in place.

When an inveterate dazzler like Gio Aplon says he is loving the game-plan at Loftus Versfeld, then you know the coach has given his charges the freedom to run. But the veteran fullback did also issue a word of pragmatism ahead of the clash with tricky opponents, who hammered the Bulls 37-15 in Pretoria last year in the Currie Cup.

“I’m really enjoying the game-plan and it’s very exciting being at the Bulls right now. But first and foremost our goal is to win. So at some stages we might kick more and at others we will play more rugby. We want to find whatever way we can to win and we want to be unpredictable. We will do whatever is necessary for us to win.

“The Bulls are a team with good tradition and a great history and we want to get their name back up there. It’s a massive honour, especially at my age, to play for them and we’re not here to compete, we want to win competitions,” the 38-year-old Aplon said.

While White has been able to lure back stars such as Aplon, stand-in captain Arno Botha, Jason Jenkins and Jacques van Rooyen, as well as investing in a host of exciting young prospects, and can afford to rest Springbok star Duane Vermeulen due to a knee niggle, there is a financial gulf between the Bulls and Griquas.

Nevertheless, Scott Mathie’s team from Kimberley do possess some quality players.

Fullback Anthony Volmink can certainly match any of the Bulls’ backline for pace and is a potent finisher, while flyhalf and captain George Whitehead has Super Rugby experience and is a smart head whose tactical and goal kicking could make the difference for Griquas.

Niell Jordaan, the former Shimlas star, is a hardened eighthman and he will relish taking on Tim Agaba now that the daunting Vermeulen is no longer his direct opponent, while prop John-Roy Jenkinson has returned from Japan to play for Griquas and will pack down against Van Rooyen in an intriguing battle in which both men weigh 122kg.

White knows, however, that his team is expected to win well and all the positive vibes from the Sharks game will be erased should they struggle.

“Of course it’s always a risk taking on one of the so-called minnows without all your first-choice players, and we understand that they will want to prove a point. But last year the Bulls lost against Griquas so I don’t even need to give them a team talk, I can just show them the highlights of that game. We expect them to be fired up and confident because they won here last year.

“But we need to focus on what we can control, which is playing to a certain standard and the type of game we want to execute. I’m not trying to be arrogant but we want to be one of the best club sides in the world and if we’re going to prove that in Europe next year then we need to be top here in South Africa, like Leinster are over there,” White said.


Bulls – Gio Aplon, Travis Ismaiel, Stedman Gans, Cornal Hendricks, David Kriel, Morne Steyn, Ivan van Zyl, Tim Agaba, Arno Botha, Marco van Staden, Ruan Nortje, Jason Jenkins, Trevor Nyakane, Corniel Els, Jacques van Rooyen. Replacements: Johan Grobbelaar, Lizo Gqoboka, Mornay Smith, Sintu Manjezi, Elrigh Louw, Embrose Papier, Chris Smith, Marco Jansen van Vuren.

Griquas – Anthony Volmink, Daniel Kasende, Harlon Klaasen, Andre Swarts, James Verity-Amm, George Whitehead, Zak Burger, Niell Jordaan, Stefan Willemse, Carl Els, Victor Sekekete, Ian Groenewald, John-Roy Jenkinson, HJ Luus, Mox Mxoli. Replacements: Alandre van Rooyen, Bandisa Ndlovu, Madot Mabokela, Adre Smith, Zandre Jordaan, Gideon van der Merwe, Ashlon Davids, Berton Klaasen.

Kick-off – 7pm.

Bulls players to bring the fizz

David Kriel

The former member of the Stormers squad stands nearly two metres tall and looked a real threat with ball in hand when he came on against the Sharks on SuperFan Saturday. Comfortable anywhere in the back three, he is good under the high ball, a strong runner and with a step that is reminiscent of former Springbok and Western Province great Pieter Rossouw. Jake White has high hopes that the Potchefstroom-born Kriel will become a favourite son at Loftus Versfeld.

Cornal Hendricks & Stedman Gans

The new Bulls centre pairing went toe-to-toe with a highly-rated Sharks midfield of Jeremy Ward and Lukhanyo Am and won the battle convincingly. White’s decision to move Hendricks from wing to inside centre was a surprise, but it certainly worked as the Springbok showed he was up for the physical challenge, while still showing the deft touches of an international-quality player.

Gans played a fantastic game at outside centre against the Sharks, the Springbok Sevens captain showing an uncanny knack for finding space and fully exploiting it, and his decision-making on defence was also on-point.

Gio Aplon

The 38-year-old fullback showed he still has plenty of pace when he inserted himself into that dynamic backline against the Sharks and Griquas could come to grief if they don’t close him down quickly. Aplon’s talent for stepping is well-known, but as an experienced general at the back he has also become highly adept at scanning the field and directing tactical play.

Griquas players to watch

Anthony Volmink

The much-travelled 30-year-old has plenty of experience, including 20 Super Rugby games for the Lions, and has built his reputation on his try-scoring ability. Volmink has played most of his rugby on the wing but was outstanding at fullback last year for Griquas as they made the Currie Cup semi-finals. The Bulls will have to be on guard for his propensity for moments of individual brilliance.

George Whitehead

Apart from being a strong leader in the Griquas set-up, Whitehead has the all-round skills to dictate strategy from flyhalf and has developed into a reliable goal-kicker. The Griquas general certainly had Bulls fans squirming last year at Loftus Versfeld.

Niell Jordaan

The former Cheetahs captain is a ferocious eighthman who is always up for the forward challenge. He will bring power but also offloading skills as Griquas are likely to try and produce some good running rugby.

John-Roy Jenkinson

The 29-year-old Glenwood High School product has returned from the Japanese Top League, where he gained further high-level experience. Jenkinson won the Currie Cup First Division with the North-West Leopards in 2015, the same year he was named in the Varsity Cup Dream Team, and he actually made three appearance for the Bulls in Super Rugby in 2017 and is acknowledged as a powerful scrummager.

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