Lions fullback Tiaan Swanepoel has described his on-field partnership with skipper Elton Jantjies, and the benefit of sharing the goal-kicking duties. DYLAN JACK reports.
In his first full season with the Lions following his move from Australia, Swanepoel contributed 63 points to help propel the Lions to the Currie Cup playoffs, where they were beaten by eventual champions the Vodacom Bulls.
It has, however, also been an adaptive process for Swanepoel, who played the past season at fullback for the first time since age-grade rugby. This was after he was mostly utilised at flyhalf during his time with the West Harbour Pirates in the Shute Shield.
Swanepoel previously played at fullback during his time with Maties in the Varsity Cup as well as with the Western Province U21 team.
Speaking to SA Rugby magazine, the 24-year-old explained how he has managed the transition.
‘I was playing at flyhalf for the last two years in Australia, but then I started playing fullback again when I moved to the Lions,’ Swanepoel said. ‘I played at flyhalf for most of my life, actually. To get the opportunity to play at fullback and watch Elton [Jantjies] play at 10 is part of the learning curve on how to play at flyhalf. It’s also a growing process for me at fullback, to get the best out of me.’
Swanepoel has formed a strong combination with his Lions captain. The two have effectively shared the kicking responsibilities, with Jantjies taking the shorter-range conversions, while Swanepoel handled the pressure of long-range penalties.
‘Elton and I have a good relationship. He knows what I can kick and that I am also a playmaker like him,’ Swanepoel explained.
‘He and I understand each other very well on the field. If there is a penalty that he wants me to kick, I will do it but we will switch that around as well. If he wants to kick one, then he can. Every time we play and train, we chat and agree that from the 10-metre line onward, he will kick and from behind the 10m line, I will kick.
‘It just helps to take the pressure off each other. If he wants to give a message to the team, and there isn’t time and a penalty is in my range, then I will kick it, then he can discuss our gameplan with the team. It’s quite nice to have two kickers in the same team.’
Swanepoel made headlines when he kicked four penalties – including a last-minute winner – to see the Lions beat Western Province in Johannesburg. However, kicking long-range pressure penalties isn’t anything new for him as he has done it from schoolboys rugby level to playing for West Harbour.
‘I have had a big boot since I was young. I have always enjoyed kicking a ball as far as I can and testing my limits,’ Swanepoel said. ‘Going through my mindset is just to strike it cleanly. I train my long-distance kicking a lot, because those are the hardest to slot, especially when it comes to the pressure kicks.’
Photo: Anton Geyser/Gallo Images