Curwin Bosch will win the Sharks the Currie Cup final because of his ability to kick pressure drop goals and create magical moments.
Bosch, like the greatest of them all Naas Botha and more recently Derick Hougaard, can transform the complexion of the game with a drop goal strike from 50m.
Bosch did it in the league match against the Bulls in testing playing conditions and in the semi-final he again showed his ability to create points with the drop goal.
Leading SA bookmakers BET.co.za are offering odds of 9/2 on Bosch landing a drop goal in Saturday's final at the Shark Tank.
His opposite in the final Robert du Preez is a very good rugby player, but he lacks Bosch’s natural X-factor.
Bosch and Du Preez are very good flyhalves and Du Preez can smother the opposition with his all-round kicking and running game if his forwards have the ascendancy. Bosch doesn’t need his forwards to be on the front foot to snap over penalty and drop goals from 50m. He is the player who gets the greatest distance off the kicking tee among South Africa’s young flyhalves and he also edges the rest in distance when it comes to kicking out of hand.
Bosch is also the best drop kick student among the young breed, and in finals when there isn’t much that separates the quality of two teams then players like Bosch become decisive to the outcome.
Province were emphatic winners the last time the two teams met in Durban but recent Currie Cup history doesn’t reward the team that succeeded in the league phases preceding the playoffs. In 2000, WP lost to the Sharks at Newlands in the month before the final and then won the final 25-15 in Durban.
Western Province, in 2010, beat the Sharks 33-21 at Newlands and a few weeks later got pumped 30-10 in the final in Durban.
In 2013 the curse of winning in the build-up to the final struck again. Province beat the Sharks 17-13 in Durban and then lost the final 33-19 in Cape Town.
The 2010 final was all about a 20 year-old Pat Lambie, who scored 25 points. Bosch has the chance to make Saturday his professional coming of age, very much like Lambie, Hougaard and Elton Jantjies did in dominant Currie Cup final performances.
Bosch will tour with the Springboks in November, but his game time could depend on his influence in this Saturday’s final.
Jantjies is the incumbent Springbok flyhalf and has started every Test this season. Handre Pollard is Allister Coetzee’s preferred option at No 10 but injury has limited his international season to less than 30 minutes in two Tests against the All Blacks.
Pollard, if he can convince Coetzee of his fitness, is being touted as the starting flyhalf against Ireland in Dublin, but Bosch with an imposing Currie Cup final display could also give Coetzee options if Pollard’s fitness is found wanting.
Pollard, for all the belief there is in him, has been starved of game time in 2017. Bosch, in Super Rugby and the Currie Cup, has played more than any of the other Springbok contenders.
Bosch is a gifted rugby player who, for me, would offer the Springboks an attacking dimension that has been absent for the entire season. I remain unconvinced that fullback Andries Coetzee is the long-term answer for the Springboks and I’d just want to see Bosch involved, be it at 15, at No 10 (in at least one of the four Tests) or introduced for second half impact.
Players of Bosch’s ilk will always make mistakes because they try so much. But players like Bosch will also win teams games they shouldn’t because they are prepared to try so much.
Bosch, as a player, has functional intelligence. He has a feel for that big play.
Current England coach and former Wallabies head coach and Springbok technical advisor Eddie Jones, in the build-up to the 2007 World Cup, was very complimentary about winger JP Pietersen’s ability as a rugby player.
Jones back then felt Pietersen was one of the best in the game because he combined natural size and attacking presence with a functional rugby intelligence. Jones explained this as the player knowing how to get himself in position to make the important plays in a game. Pietersen’s cross cover tackle to deny Fiji a try in the quarter-final defined the Springboks’ win in Marseilles.
Similarly, Bosch’s drop goal against the Bulls in the semi-final. The Sharks were four points ahead but the momentum of the match was turning against the Sharks. Bosch halted the momentum with a drop goal, just like he had done previously in the competition against the Bulls when dropping in with a three pointer in a low-scoring match.
Bosch does things that can’t be coached - and that’s why he is such an investment for South African rugby.
It’s also why the Sharks will be Currie Cup winners this Saturday.
Mark Keohane is a Cape-Town based award-winning rugby specialist and former Springbok Communications Manager. Follow him on Twitter
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