Bulls continue to add to SA's lock legacy
SPOTLIGHT: Bulls have a history of producing some of the country’s best locks in South Africa.
The competition for the Class of 2021 has been no different as Janko Swanepoel, who had cut his teeth in the junior structures at Loftus Versfeld, had to compete for a place in the senior team with the likes of the more experienced Sintu Manjezi, the evergreen Ruan Nortje, the exciting Walt Steenkamp and the versatile Jacques du Plessis, among others.
The 22-year-old established himself as a consistent feature in the Bulls’ Currie Cup and the United Rugby Championship teams, where he has appeared mostly as a No.4 lock – a slight change from the No.5 position he has mostly played in his junior rugby years.
“When I look back, from Under-19 level right through the junior ranks, I was always a No.5 lock,” said Swanepoel.
“When Coach Jake [White] brought me up to the senior team, I got the opportunity to play at No4.
“I thought it was something that would make me a more versatile player – to be able to play in both positions. Wherever I am asked to play, I will play.”
— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) December 22, 2021
Swanepoel has grown in leaps and bounds over the past year and admits to having gained valuable experience, particularly from his involvement in the United Rugby Championship, where he has competed against some of the best second-rows in Europe and in South Africa.
“There is quite a lot that I have learned and we, as a unit, have learned in terms of lineouts,” he said.
“We continuously do our homework, analysing the oppositions’ lineouts. They too seem to have done their homework well when it comes to analysing ours. This is a new competition for us, and we continue to learn as we try to find our feet in the competition.”
Like any young rugby player, Swanepoel harbours ambitions of donning the green and gold of the Springboks one day.
He needs no further motivation to work towards this goal than attempting to follow in the footsteps of the players he admires.
“Franco Mostert is one of the players I look up to,” he revealed.
“He has shown that you don’t necessarily need to be the biggest bloke on the field, his work ethic and his work rate in the lineout is very good.
“There are also players like Lood de Jager, who is one of the standout players that I look up to.”
When the Bulls return to action in the new year, Swanepoel will be hoping to continue where he left off – producing stellar performances and showing marked improvements in his game with each passing match.