Meet Steff Evans: Welsh rugby’s record-breaking answer to Harry Kane
He’s been dubbed Welsh rugby’s answer to Harry Kane and Steff Evans is certainly one prolific finisher.
The Scarlets winger is now his country’s all-time top try scorer in the 20-plus year history of the competition that has developed into the BKT United Rugby Championship.
He claimed his 50th league touchdown against Dragons RFC last month, taking him past Ospreys full-back Dan Evans and up to fifth on the overall list, with just Tommy Bowe (67), Craig Gilroy (59), Duhan van der Merwe and Tim Visser (both 58) above him.
It’s a record that means a great deal to the Llanelli-born 28-year-old who won the last of his 13 Wales caps back in August 2019.
“I’ve sort of gone under the radar a lot of times over the first few years, so it’s nice to actually have my name there,” he says.
“It’s a great honour to be on that list surrounded by great players and hopefully I can just keep going. I have just got to hang on the edges, keep getting the ball to me and just run in those five metre tries!”
Evans is also the top try-scorer in this season’s EPCR Challenge Cup having crossed the whitewash five times in the Scarlets’ march into the last 16. In all, he has snapped up 68 tries in his 167 career appearances for the west Wales outfit. So what is the secret to his success?
“For a lot of my tries, I have just been on the end of things,” he says modestly.
“There are some I have had to work for. I do it in training every day. It’s just getting on the end of them and getting through contact. It’s sort of just instinct.
“I have just been put in the right places at the right time for most of them and I have just got to finish.”
Evans, who made his Wales debut back in the summer of 2017, feels his all-round game has come on in recent years.
“People obviously know about my attack, but I’ve been highly criticised about my defence and that’s probably still the case a little bit,” he says.
“That’s my work on and that’s what I’ve worked hard on. In my head, I know my attack can sort of look after itself, but it’s about the extras you’ve got to do in defence. I have got the confidence now to just play the game.”
Evans is also enjoying the fresh challenge thrown up by the addition of the four South African Super Rugby sides to the BKT URC.
“Sometimes you find yourself playing against people you have known a long time. I relish the chance to go against new players in the league, especially now with these South African teams coming in. It’s nice to get a chance to play against other sort of players,” he said.
“There are some big, fast South African wingers out there. They are a different sort of breed, they have got strength, they’ve got pace and they are great in the air.”
As for his favourite winger when he was growing up, he comes up with one who performed close to home.
“I used to enjoy watching Salesi Finau play for the Scarlets down in Stradey Park,” he reveals.
“He was a great player, sort of the Jonah Lomu of my time when I was watching the Scarlets. He was the first winger I thought was a different sort of cut.”
Strapping Tongan international Finau tipped the scales at around 16st 3lbs, so does the 12st 13lbs Evans ever wish he was that size?
“No, I don’t think I would be able to move, to be honest! I am happy where I am.”
Evans’ coach Dwayne Peel is also happy with how his predatory wing is shaping up.
“In football, you talk about goal-scorers having a knack of putting it in the net, people like Harry Kane,” says the Scarlets boss.
“In terms of scoring tries, Steff is right up there. He hunts the ball, his lines of running are very good, he works hard back and fore across the field looking for the ball.
“But what I have enjoyed this year is his work on the other side of the ball in defence. In the past, people have criticised his defence, but it is something he works extremely hard on.
“He is also a good character around the place. He is quiet and gets on with his business. There have been some awkward conversations when I have left him out, which shows he cares, he wants to play. He cares about the club, he is a local boy and wants to be here. He is a guy who puts everything into it, he’s a good guy to have around.”
The last word goes to Evans himself as he prepares for Saturday evening’s URC clash at home to Edinburgh, with the Scarlets in good spirits having won seven of their last eight matches in all competitions.
“We didn’t start the season very well and we were in a little bit of a spot, but the wins in Europe changed the atmosphere around here and just brought us together as a squad,” he said.
“Winning does change things and give you a bit more confidence. I think that’s what we were lacking. The effort was there, it was just the confidence sometimes maybe wasn’t. The wins in Europe were probably the spark we needed.”
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