Willie le Roux is among a quartet of Springboks who, according to centre Stedman Gans, has lifted the level of training at the Vodacom Bulls ahead of the clash with Connacht.
The Vodacom Bulls this week were boosted by their four World Cup-winning Springboks after arriving back in Pretoria from a four-week Vodacom URC tour of Europe.
Veteran fullback Le Roux as well as wing Kurt-Lee Arendse, centre Canan Moodie and loose forward Marco van Staden all took part in training this week and are in contention to face Irish side Connacht on Saturday afternoon at Loftus Versfeld.
“We are very happy to have them back,” Gans said. “They bring heaps of experience and excitement. I think a few of them could be involved this weekend as well. It just builds the confidence of the team to have that caliber of players back with us.”
Gans said that the 34-year-old Le Roux, who joined the Vodacom Bulls in the off-season from Japanese side Toyota Verblitz, has been teaching his younger teammates a lesson.
“Willie has been running the fastest at training this week,” Gans said with a laugh. “The guys coming back from the tour are still feeling a bit of the flight home. Willie has been here in SA, so he’s fresh and he’s been outpacing us.”
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Of course, the return of the Boks is a double-edged sword for players like Gans, who have taken their opportunities to impress on tour while the internationals have been away at the World Cup.
Gans, who said he feels like he has made one of his better starts to a season, now faces even stiffer competition for his place in the starting lineup, especially with Moodie being seen more as an outside centre than a wing, where he finished the season for the Vodacom Bulls
“Since the beginning of the season, with the squad we have, it’s been a very difficult squad to make the team for the weekend,” Gans said. “You have to be at your best every single day.
With the Springboks coming back, it has gone up another level. They are definitely lifting the squad and everyone is training on a different level, because you want to be part of it, but know you have to be at your absolute best.
“My focus has always been on my own performance,” Gans added. “So I don’t necessarily look at who is in the squad and competing for the same position.
“I just see it as when I get the opportunity in a game or training to do my best, if it’s good enough, then coaches will tell you and select you. If it’s not, they will tell you what to work on.”