Ivan van Rooyen has credited fullback Tiaan Swanepoel’s excellent goal-kicking performance as the catalyst for the Lions’ 22-19 comeback win over Western Province on Saturday.
The Lions looked dead and buried when they trailed 19-9 against WP at Ellis Park, but Swanepoel’s big boot kept them in the contest. In what was his maiden start in the Currie Cup, he slotted two long-range penalties in the first half and stepped up to nail the match-winning kick at the death.
Still relatively unfamiliar as a player, the 24-year-old Namibian’s performance came as a surprise to many. But Van Rooyen suggested Swanepoel’s heroics off the kicking tee was unsurprising, considering he has converted several long range kicks in training.
‘We know what Tiaan can do with his boot, he kicked about a 70m kick the other day in training. So we know that it was a weapon for us,’ Van Rooyen said.
Commenting on Swanepoel’s first long range penalty, which was measured at well over 60 metres, Van Rooyen said it was a combination of excellent captaincy from Jantjies and big match temperament by the kicker.
‘We’re really big on educating the players on what decisions to take and when, so it was a great decision from Elton (Jantjies) to go there early in the game. We knew that he had it distance-wise and it was some nice BMT from Tiaan.’
The win moved the Lions up to fourth on the log and in with a real chance to make the playoffs. Van Rooyen explained that he experienced a myriad of emotions throughout the match, but that the overwhelming feeling was relief that they turned things around from a losing position.
‘We obviously desperately needed a win against a very good Western Province team. You can’t really call it an 80 minute performance but you can call it a ‘mentally 80-minute challenge and fight. To beat them for the first time in three attempts this year is big for us. We know the quality they have, so we believe that we will get a bit of momentum from this one, definitely.’
By contract, captain Jantjies said he never lost belief that they would win, not even when they were trailing by 10 points with time running out.
‘For the full 80 minutes the belief was there in terms of winning the game. There were a lot of building blocks towards us winning,’ Jantjies said.
‘It’s easy to lose patience, especially from a leadership point of view, so I had to make decisions in the moment. And luckily we have a lot of leaders in the team and there are guys who are stepping up. But it comes down to me making the decision… whether kicking to the corner or go to poles or go to a set-piece,’ Jantjies said.
‘In the last 10 minutes I felt it was going to be massive in terms of game management and decision making and to have a guy like Tiaan to kick us back to within seven points. I felt the moment Tiaan stepped, the boys got some energy. That’s what we stand for as a team – to create something unexpected – and Tiaan saw that opportunity and he took it.’