Not about revenge for Bulls’ Williams against Stormers

Bulls star Devon Williams, seen here scoring a try against Bordeaux, previously played for the Stormers. Photo: BackpagePix

Bulls star Devon Williams, seen here scoring a try against Bordeaux, previously played for the Stormers. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Feb 28, 2024


Devon Williams is a born-and-bred Stormers man.

Hailing from the small town of Pniel, near Stellenbosch, Williams’ rugby talents saw him feature for Paarl Boys’ High and then star for Maties in the 2013 Varsity Cup.

Williams quickly became one of the standouts as a wing for the Western Province Under-21 and Vodacom Cup sides, and a Stormers call-up arrived in 2014.

But after just a few Super Rugby caps, Williams didn’t see much action, and he eventually made the decision to leave the Cape and join the unheralded Pumas in Mpumalanga.

It has been a gigantic success for the fleet-footed speedster, as he became a Currie Cup champion under long-serving coach Jimmy Stonehouse.

Those performances earned him a loan deal with the Bulls this season, and he has made such a big impact that director of rugby Jake White decided to make it a permanent move to Pretoria.

And now, at the age of 31, Williams is preparing to face the Stormers team that let him go all those years ago, in Saturday’s United Rugby Championship showdown at Loftus Versfeld (5.05pm kick-off).

“For eight years I’ve been at the Pumas, and I thank all the coaches there for backing me all the way,” Williams said.

“I owe it all to him (Stonehouse) – I call him my dad. What more can I say ... he deserves all the credit for me being here. He backed me when no one wanted me, and moulded me into the player I am today, and now I am just reaping the rewards.

“I got the opportunity to come to the Bulls and express myself. Guys like Marco (van Staden), Canan (Moodie) and Kurt-Lee (Arendse) make my job much easier.

“It is definitely an honour to be at the Bulls. I’m definitely looking forward to the week ahead.”

Another former Cape-based player who never got a chance at the Stormers, Willie le Roux, has missed bits of the season for the Bulls due to Springbok resting protocols, as well as his recent wedding. But while the Springbok fullback is set to return to the Bulls camp this week, it won’t be a surprise if Williams is retained in the No 15 jersey against the Stormers, where he could come up against either Warrick Gelant or Damian Willemse.

His pace has helped to unlock defences, while he also has a solid left boot that relieves pressure with kicks downfield.

Williams is able to vary his game smartly between taking on the defence himself and creating space for his teammates, and it’s those sorts of skills that will come in handy against a renowned Stormers defence.

He missed out on selection in the Bulls’ 26-20 loss to the Stormers in Cape Town in December, so he will hope to get an opportunity to showcase his talent at Loftus this weekend and help the Pretoria side end a seven-match losing streak against their great rivals.

But Williams is not thinking of wanting to prove a personal point against John Dobson’s team in front of what is likely to be a 52 000-capacity crowd, with over 30 000 tickets already sold by Monday.

“Taking it back to the Pumas, I always wanted revenge, to make a statement. But then you take the context of the game away by making it about yourself – and I think rugby is bigger than that,” he said.

“So, it’s just to go out and give my all for the Bulls if I get the opportunity to play against them.

“I know everything will fall in place if I stick to the structures. It’s not about me, but the team.

“Maybe I’m a late bloomer. Coach Jimmy-them gave me the framework, and I think I am well-moulded now, and to make the step up is so much easier.

“I am just grateful for the opportunity.”

Meanwhile, the organisers announced yesterday that Marius van der Westhuizen will be the referee for Saturday’s Loftus encounter, with Marius Jonker the TMO.