When the year started, little did Vodacom Bulls lock, Janko Swanepoel, imagine how much of an integral part of the team he would be.
The Vodacom 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 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 Vodacom Bulls’ Carling Currie Cup and the Vodacom United Rugby Championship teams, where he has appeared mostly as a No4 lock – a slight change from the No5 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 No5 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.”
Swanepoel has grown in leaps and bounds over the past year and admits to having gained valuable experience, particularly from his involvement in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, where he has competed against some of the best second-rowers 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.