Tiaan Swanepoel. (Gallo Images)
- Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen has lauded the “BMT” of fullback Tiaan Swanepoel after their Currie Cup win over Western Province.
- Swanepoel kicked five penalties, including three long-range attempts, as the Lions overcame a 10-point deficit to win 22-19.
- Van Rooyen says Swanepoel slotted a kick from “about 70m in training the other day”.
Fullback Tiaan Swanepoel was the Lions’ unlikely hero in their come-from-behind Currie Cup win over Western Province at Ellis Park on Saturday night.
The 24-year-old kicked five penalties, including one right at the death, to see his side sneak a 22-19 win.
The Lions trailed for large parts, but Swanepoel’s boot kept them in the game with a few long-range penalties at crucial junctures.
He kicked a monster 61m penalty to put his side on the board in the 18th minute and was also successful with a 45m effort to level matters at 6-6 after 30 minutes.
The Lions looked up against it when they trailed 19-9 heading into the final 10 minutes, before another long-range effort from Swanepoel got them within striking range.
It proved the catalyst for a fightback and Swanepoel sealed WP’s fate when he slotted an easy penalty at the death.
While addressing reporters after the game, Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen said he was not surprised by Swanepoel’s heroics.
“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,” the coach said.
Van Rooyen also lauded captain Elton Jantjies’ decision to hand the kicking duties to his fullback.
“We’re really big on educating the players on what decisions to take and when [to take them]… it was a great decision from Elton to go there early in the game. We knew that he had it distance-wise and it was some nice BMT (big match temperament) from Tiaan,” Van Rooyen noted.
Jantjies added that he was never stressed, despite his side 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… 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.
Jantjies acknowledged that Schoeman’s long-range effort in the 68th minute – which brought the score back to 12-19 – proved pivotal.
“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… that was my gut [feeling], what I felt at that moment and Tiaan stepped and 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.”
The win sees the Lions climb above the Cheetahs into fourth place on the Currie Cup standings. They now trail WP, who picked up a losing bonus point, by a solitary point.
Van Rooyen added that he felt “massive relief and real pride” at the final whistle.
“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.”
Van Rooyen’s counterpart, John Dobson, was understandably dejected after another narrow loss.
“We’re helluva disappointed. In the last 10 minutes they were playing with quite a bit of rhythm.
“I do think we deserve some credit for our defence, it’s not often you come to Ellis Park and concede only one try but the problem is we only scored one ourselves,” Dobson said.