Curwin Bosch is good enough to play for the Springboks against France in the June Test series.
Why the hesitation in picking him?
Why does he need to be wrapped in cotton wool and nurtured away from Test rugby?
The very best get picked and triumph, regardless of age.
The adage is ‘good enough is old enough’.
Age is not the issue around Bosch. I’d suggest it is an inherently South African prejudice that always zones in one the one thing a player supposedly can’t do and ignores the many things the player can do.
Bosch can pretty much do anything - and he is still a teenager.
There wasn’t an issue picking Handre Pollard as a 20-year-old and there shouldn’t be one selecting Bosch.
Pollard was the right selection for the Springboks in 2014. He was the best in South Africa and he transferred the form that made him the world’s best Under-20 player into the Test arena.
Pollard rocked in his Test debut against Scotland and was as good when scoring 19 points, including two tries, against the All Blacks at Ellis Park.
Bosch in his debut Super Rugby season has been sensational. He is a special player and special players are picked when red-hot, and those players invariably perform.
Pollard and Pat Lambie, at the start of the year, were the two obvious Bok flyhalf selections but both are injured and Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies' departure to England means any Bok selection against France would be short-term.
Bosch, for now, is going nowhere and there must be international reward for his stand out entry to Super Rugby.
The key is to pick combinations that will add to the likelihood of Bosch being successful. Don't view the Bosch selection in isolation.
Bosch’s comfort if picked as the Springbok flyhalf would come from having his Sharks team-mate Cobus Reinach on his inside at scrumhalf and having the experienced Frans Steyn outside him at inside centre.
Reinach, along with Lions No 9 Ross Cronje, has been the South African form scrumhalf in Super Rugby and Steyn’s quality and all-round skill set is without comparison among the South African No 12 options.
Steyn hasn’t played for the Springboks in four years and it’s been four years too long. He has been colossal for Montpellier in the Top 14 and was instrumental in Montpellier’s history-making European Shield success in 2016.
Steyn, despite a four-year Test absence, has played over 50 Tests and won a World Cup as a 20-year-old. He has played in France for the last six years and is among the most celebrated and respected players in France.
Bosch wouldn’t get a better introduction and guide to Test rugby and to playing France than having Steyn on his outside. Steyn is also defensively strong and physically powerful on attack.
Bosch and Steyn’s respective line kicking range counts among the longest and both have the ability to kick penalties and drop goals from 60 metres.
Steyn’s talents have never been given the necessary recognition in his country of birth because as a player he doesn’t conform to the stereotypical. He divides opinion in South Africa, just like Sonny Bill Williams does among New Zealanders. But as rugby players there should only ever be unanimous agreement on the quality of players like Steyn and Williams. I'd want them in my team every weekend.
It’s been a shame that Steyn has not played Test rugby for the Springboks in the last four years. Equally it would be a shame if Bosch were not picked to play against France.
Springbok rugby slumped to seventh in the world in 2016 because there was no plan around how to play or who to select.
Brendan Venter’s involvement as a consultant will give the Boks greater direction on attack and in defence. I also hope he has influence with Bok coach Allister Coetzee when it comes to selection and that this influence promotes the virtues of Bosch and Steyn in tandem as offering something particularly dynamic.
It irks me to constantly hear that Bosch can’t defend and that he is a defensive vulnerability. Look at what he does on attack, with ball in hand, from broken play and when putting boot to ball.
New Zealand’s greatest strength is in how their national coaches and selectors reward form and attack. They select on what a player does and they don’t omit a player on one aspect of his game that is questionable. They work a system to nullify the vulnerability or to improve it, but primarily they focus on the strengths.
Springbok rugby, to break back into the top five and then the top three, needs a balance of experience and youth, just like it will need the best of those playing in Super Rugby to combine with the exceptional South African form players in the northern hemisphere.
Crucially Springbok rugby requires a change in mindset that rewards what a talent like Bosch can do instead of rejecting him because of a belief there is something he can’t do.
Mark Keohane is a Cape-Town based award-winning rugby specialist and former Springbok Communications Manager. Follow him on Twitter
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