Pirates gun Tiaan Swanepoel explains how to kick 58m penalty goals

Photo: JB Photography

South Africans are well known for their kicking prowess and West Harbour recruit Tiaan Swanepoel is living up to that reputation. 

The flyhalf from Cape Town has been knocking three pointers over for fun since joining the Pirates this year and on Saturday nailed a shot from 58 metres out in West Harbour’s 23-23 draw with Gordon. 

“It was good, we had a little bit of a wind behind us so I decided to test my limits a little bit,” Swanepoel told Rugby News. 

“That’s the longest kick I’ve ever made in a game but in practise I try from 65 metres when the wind is right.”

Swanepoel grew up in Cape Town and joined the Western Province academy after finishing school. After representing Western Province U19s and U21s, he joined their Currie Cup squad in 2018 but had his season interrupted by injury. 

Swanepoel linked with a new look West Harbour side in early 2019 and has scored five tries and kicked 16 goals in his first five games in the Shute Shield and is quickly earning a reputation as the most dangerous sharp shooter in the competition. 

“The most important thing is to stay calm and stick to the basics,” he told Rugby News. 

“You need to focus on your technique and not force anything. If you have a certain way of kicking, you need to stick to it and just go through the motions. 

“It’s all in the technique. If you keep your head down, stick to your routine and kick through the ball then most the time you’ll make the distance.”

Swanepoel said the most common mistake is to try to kick the ball too hard. 

“A lot of the time with long distance kicks, you try and force it too much but if you stay relaxed and focus on connecting well, the distance isn’t a problem” he said. 

“I walk back on a 45 degree angle, so I can almost see both sides of the ball. When you walk towards the ball you need to start slowly and then build up speed as you get closer so that the momentum pushes you forward.

“You must always lean forward, keep your head down, swing your arm straight and follow through towards the goalposts.”

While Johnny Wilkinson, Quade Cooper and Piggy Riddell are all known for their unique kicking routines, Swanepoel said while they may look different, the aim of all those routines were the same. 

“Most good goal kickers focus on their left arm because that helps bring your leg through towards the ball and through to where you want to kick. If you don’t keep your arm straight, you’ll bring your leg through on a different angle and you can’t follow through towards the posts. 

“There is a sweet spot on your foot, the boney part, then you need to hit the sweet spot on the ball which is almost right on the end. If you hit that each time, then you will always get good contact.”

After six rounds, West Harbour sit one win outside of the top six but look to be improving each week. 

The Pirates fought back from 17-0 on Saturday to claim a 23-23 draw against an in form Gordon outfit and take on defending premiers Sydney Uni this weekend.

“In preseason, we didn’t have enough time to bond and work on combinations because we were literally an entirely new side with a new coach as well. Now, we’re growing each week and we’re doing it while we’re playing against the top teams. 

“The competition is quite hard. It’s fast rugby and everyone wants to play. It’s very similar to South African competitions like Super Sport and Currie Cup so it’s great to have that sort of quality in a club competition.”