Currie Cup

Bulls wary of Lions ace Tiaan Swanepoel pulling a 'Morne Steyn' on them

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Tiaan Swanepoel. (Gallo Images)
Tiaan Swanepoel. (Gallo Images)
  • The Bulls will be hoping the Lions' goalkicking ace, Tiaan Swanepoel, doesn't pull a "Morne Steyn" on them in this weekend's Currie Cup semi-final.
  • Steyn himself has pointed out that the 24-year-old fullback's ability means ill-discipline could be punished even more severely if the Bulls don't get things right.
  • The 36-year-old veteran pivot believes the Bulls don't have to change much with regards to their game plan despite the magnitude of the occasion.

Back in 2009, Western Province were on the verge of a remarkable turnaround in their Currie Cup semi-final against the Bulls at Newlands.

Down 0-12 within half an hour, the Capetonians roared back into a 19-18 lead with three minutes to go before their Fijian replacement, Sireli Naqelevuki, made an infamous dangerous tackle on Jaco Pretorius.

Morne Steyn, fresh from being a hero of that year's series against the British & Irish Lions, as well as a triumphant Tri-Nations campaign, lined up a 55m kick at goal and nailed it, breaking Province hearts in the process.

Over a decade later, the Bulls take on the Lions at Loftus in a playoff as the favourites, but the 36-year-old veteran is acutely aware of the fact that the men from Doornfontein possess a player with the ability to inflict a similar heartache.

His name is Tiaan Swanepoel.

The 24-year-old fullback has been one of the finds of the campaign, not only impressing in general play but emerging as a Frans Steyn-esque goalkicker, able to pop over long-range penalties at will.

"Tiaan definitely might make things a bit more difficult for us," said Steyn.

"We're now very much aware that we can't concede penalties within any distance of 60m. If we do that, Tiaan is going to punish us. Discipline will be a focus for us this week, to limit the penalties and potential points on offer. I suppose that's something relevant to both sides."

Indeed, Steyn himself has remained a prolific technician off the tee though he jests over whether he can still match Swanepoel for distance.

"Don't forget that my legs have grown older. My limit is only 50m now," he said with a chuckle.

However, worrying about Swanepoel's boot isn't something the Bulls are preoccupying themselves with, instead concentrating on simply doing what they've done to date in becoming South Africa's pre-eminent franchise again under Jake White.

Doing that will also nullify the age-old semi-final quirk of teams being worried about changing their style to allow for the talk of "playoff rugby" or "winning rugby".

"We'd be stupid to change too much, I believe when it comes to playoffs you simply have to keep intact the tactics that brought you in the semi-finals in the first place. You don't want to do things that you're not used to," said Steyn.

"You train the same way and play the same way. (As the group of senior players) we told the guys during this long break that while we're playing in a semi, you just have to go out and do what we've done. It's about embracing the occasion for what it is, another game."

Steyn is also not too worried about what SA Rugby's postponement of the semi-finals by a week has done to teams' rhythms, with three of the semi-finalists having played a competitive match almost 20 days ago.

"Luckily, it's been the same for everyone. Virtually all of our opponents have been disrupted at one time or another during the Currie Cup through Covid and injuries," he said.

"It's been a strange year for everyone to navigate. Sometimes a break's good, sometimes it's not. That's how it is." 

Saturday's match at Loftus kicks off at 14:00.

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