Cape Town - Time will tell how steep the upward curve in Curwin Bosch’s development graph needs to be as it will depend on the health and form of other players, but the young flyhalf starts a critical stage in his challenge for an immediate Springbok future this week.
No-one would have disagreed with Bok coach Allister Coetzee when after returning from Argentina he said that Bosch will play many games for South Africa. In justifying 20-year-old Bosch’s exclusion from the squad that has travelled to Australasia for the Antipodean leg of the Rugby Championship, Coetzee pointed to the experience and proven international ability of Handre Pollard, who is likely to be included in the match 23 for Saturday’s clash with the Wallabies in Perth.
Coetzee also echoed the words of his backline coach Franco Smith, who said in the build-up to the Port Elizabeth clash with the Pumas that Bosch was an undoubted talent but still had a lot to learn and further development was necessary. Smith said that he’d like to see Bosch play another season of Super Rugby.
The former Eastern Province schoolboy has already travelled a long way quickly since moving up to Durban to start his professional career with the Sharks. It was just over two years ago that we were watching him be the star of the show at the 2015 Craven Week in Paarl. All the provinces were lining up for Bosch’s signature, but it was the Sharks who won the battle.
Bosch does have weaknesses in his game, as all players of his age should have. You are not the finished product at the age of 20. Which was why Sharks coach Robert du Preez played him at fullback in last year’s Currie Cup. In that position his suspect defence would be put to less of a test in the sense that there is more heavy traffic heading down the flyhalf channel these days than there is almost anywhere else on the field.
At the start of 2017, Du Preez still looked set to field Bosch mainly as a fullback. Don’t forget that Patrick Lambie was the Sharks incumbent flyhalf and captain. Bosch was the perfect bench man back then, performing as understudy to French import Clement Poitrenaud in the last line of defence and Lambie’s back-up at pivot.
When Lambie was injured early in the match against the Waratahs, however, Bosch came on in the flyhalf channel and excelled in a great win for the Durban franchise. He showed that day what he could do at the highest level, but the way the Sharks juggled their defensive system when it was opposition ball at the set-piece, such as putting big centre Andre Esterhuizen at first receiver, showed that the concerns about Bosch’s suspect defence were still there.
More recently Smith acknowledged that Bosch’s defence was still a work in progress. But giving Bosch the experience of being part of a Bok squad and giving him a chance to be guided by the national coaches was always the intent of his selection.
Coetzee felt that the plan worked, and he told reporters at Cape Town International Airport when the Cape contingent returned from Argentina that he felt he now has three fit flyhalves who are capable of playing international rugby – Elton Jantjies, Pollard and Bosch.
Hopefully Jantjies and Pollard will remain fit and Bosch won’t be called on just yet, but who knows how long we may be from Bosch being sent an SOS. There are effectively only two men ahead of him in the pecking order, and the end of year tour to Europe is still over two months away. A lot of rugby is to be played and a lot can happen in that time.
Coetzee says he is looking forward to seeing whether Bosch can apply what he has learned in the Currie Cup. If the flyhalf does that, then Coetzee will breathe a lot easier. Bosch, who Coetzee reckons will have returned from his Springbok duties with confidence bolstered and as a more mature player, gets his first opportunity to back up Coetzee’s faith when the Sharks go to Nelspruit on Friday night to face a Pumas team that has been outstanding at home this season.
These are though different Pumas to the ones that Bosch faced in his short cameo debut in Port Elizabeth three weeks ago, so the pressure won’t be as intense. What Bosch mustn’t do is go onto the field thinking that it will be a picnic in comparison to the pressure of playing international rugby, for he has perhaps been tripped up by that thinking in the past.
The last time that Bosch stepped down a rung in levels of rugby was when he went from Super Rugby to the Junior Springboks for the world under-20 tournament. Many would have been expecting him to be the Player of the Tournament in Georgia, but instead it was his unheralded teammate Juarno Augustus who walked away with that accolade as Bosch delivered flawed performances that belied his status as a top Super Rugby player.
Bosch needs to show over the next few weeks at Currie Cup level that he can be consistently good and that he has the ability to be a level above those around him. It would be wrong to say this is a crucial juncture in his career in terms of determining whether he will make it or not, because he will make it. The next few weeks though could determine how soon he will make it.
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