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The prop who went from NWU Eagles to Bok invite

SPOTLIGHT: Varsity Cup rugby aside, chances are the name Ruan Swiegers has not come up in real rugby conversations around braaivleis fires in South Africa much.

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That all changed a week ago when it was announced that Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus invited one Ruan ‘Sampie’ Swiegers, a prop playing for the Pumas in Nelspruit, to attend the virtual alignment camp on May 3.

The little-known prop, who never played provincial rugby at school level, has been compared to Frans Malherbe by his coach at the Pumas, Jimmy Stonehouse.

Swiegers led his beloved NWU Eagles side to Varsity Cup victory in 2023. A short search on social media reveals some dramatic videos of the big man crashing over the tryline time and time again.

The 25-year-old prop has hailed the role his father played in him becoming a professional rugby player.

Gielie Swiegers was a tighthead prop for the former Northern Transvaal (now the Bulls) from 1988 until 1992 and, according to Sampie, trained him from his Grade One year.

“He taught me how to scrum and tackle, and it’s an ongoing thing because whenever I go home he still shows me where and how I can improve my game,” Sampie told Mygqeberha.com.

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“My first birthday present was a rugby ball. We would always be playing and diving around in the living room.

“He inspired me a lot but he never put pressure on me to play rugby. He always said if I like it, then I can do it, and he was always there to support me.”

Swiegers matriculated at Empangeni High School and then joined North-West University where he excelled academically, completing his studies in Human Movement Science and Psychology. He also completed his Diploma in Business Management.

His incredible journey began when he competed in the first years’ rugby tournament for his then place of residence, Laureus men’s residence. In 2020 he participated in his first Varsity Cup and subsequently also captained the Eagles.

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In 2023 he led them to Varsity Cup glory after defeating UCT Ikeys 27-25 at the Fanie du Toit Sports Grounds.

This earned him a professional contract with the Pumas.

 

Looking ahead to the Springboks’ schedule this year, it is clear that coach Rassie Erasmus will have to scrape the barrel to find quality players outside of the current Springbok group, especially for their first fixture.

The Springboks kick off their new campaign under Erasmus in their opening match of the season against Wales at Twickenham on June 22, the same day as the United Rugby Championship Final.

Should two South African teams advance to the Final, Erasmus’ squad could be depleted as he would also be without a number of players from the Premiership, Top 14, and non-South African URC teams.

Spreading the net wider to potentially bring in new blood has prompted the Springbok management team to look closer at domestic competitions like the Varsity Cup, SA Cup, and later on the Currie Cup.

“It is definitely not a crisis. It’s just the fact that three teams are in the running for the URC play-offs,” Erasmus told media in Potchefstroom after receiving his honorary doctorate last week.

“This is where players from the Pumas and Griquas get involved. It is [potentially] only the Sharks’ players who will be available for that first test against Wales, which is outside of the regulation nine window.

“This means that we cannot draw Premiership players in like Thomas du Toit who is playing for Bath – we can’t draft him in.

“So, it is just a logistics and regulations pothole that we have to miss, we just made sure that if all teams are not available [we are covered], but it looks like the Lions’ props will be available.”

He added: “But Sampie is already a player that Daan Human loves, he has got the shape that Daan likes – we are just making sure we have got cover for cover if the worst happens.”

The 25-year-old may not be the only young player given an opportunity to impress in 2024, with Erasmus adding that the Springboks need to build experience for the 2027 World Cup.

“We are definitely going to give younger guys a chance this year. We must remember, in 2020 we did not play rugby due to Covid-19. We couldn’t play,” he added.

“So, we definitely need to start throwing in younger players.”

“Future rugby stars should never give up op on their goals. They should find a good balance between playing sport and enjoying life and should never lose faith in themselves,” Swiegers said on the NWU internal newsletter recently.

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