Bosch: He’s our ‘pocket Frans Steyn’

    2017-04-03 12:49

    Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

    Cape Town – Considering the persistent elusiveness of the trophy ever since, most South Africans will still harbour reasonably clear and fond memories of the Springboks securing the 2009 Tri-Nations in Hamilton.

    Now the Rugby Championship and featuring an additional team in Argentina, the Boks have come up short for the honours in each of the seven seasons since, with the All Blacks landing it five times and the Wallabies twice.

    Despite their broad dominance of that 2009 campaign, including successive home drubbings of NZ, the Boks still needed to get a good result out of the final match at Waikato Stadium to be absolutely sure of eclipsing New Zealand to the honours … and certain very key factors played a role in their nail-biting 32-29 triumph.

    One was undoubtedly the near-freak range a certain Frans Steyn, playing at fullback, was (and still is) capable of achieving off the kicking tee – although effectively the back-up place-kicker to flyhalf Morne Steyn, the hefty No 15’s priceless trio of penalty goals from his own half ultimately played a massive role in keeping the desperate hosts at bay.

    One goal was from more than 60 metres, some effort considering that the game was played in anything but Highveld-type conditions, and that ability was something not even the great Dan Carter, calling the All Black shots at flyhalf that day, could ever boast; his reliability off the tee was limited more to areas within the 40 to 45-metre mark at most.

    With the gradual falling from favour of the single-minded Steyn, now firmly based abroad with Montpellier, the Boks simultaneously surrendered his almost uniquely booming kicking qualities, even if Johan Goosen all too fitfully, for a while, offered similar credentials.

    Remember that grainy, schoolboy-phase video clip of Goosen banging over a penalty – with a bit to spare, too -- from a claimed 67 metres for Grey College against Paul Roos?

    Goosen is in something of a self-imposed wilderness at present, having “retired” at the novel age of 24 and embroiled in a “breach of contract” charge from Racing 92; he never really looked a genuinely compelling international anyway in 13 appearances between 2012 and 2016.

    Which is where a certain, currently hot-property Curwin Bosch, only 19, suddenly comes quite attractively into the 2017 Test picture just in juggernaut-boot terms.

    His general play for the Sharks in Super Rugby thus far is an appealing enough of aspect of his game … abundantly so, and firmly in evidence once more in the riveting derby against the Lions at the weekend.

    But I would argue that as much as anything, the combination of dead-eye accuracy and deceptive length ability on his kicks is going to make him, at very least, a temptation to have amidst the greater Bok match-day squad, for example, even if the more-important-than-usual June Tests against France end up being deemed too early for him to actually start internationals.

    The word “deceptive” is used intentionally, because Bosch strikes the ball mightily hard and high for one of the more lightweight characters in physical terms in the competition.

    Whereas you have to suspect pure, brute power has always played a part in Frans Steyn’s success with monster penalties (why wouldn’t it when you are some 110kg and 1.91m?), Bosch could hardly be more different in bodily terms, at 80kg and 1.80m, so it is clear he is a remarkably sweet timer of his strikes and simply the most natural of “footballers”.

    He kicked one high-pressure penalty at an advanced stage of the Lions thriller which television commentators Joel Stransky and company judged to be from anything between 62 and 65 metres, if memory serves me correctly, and duly landed it – it put the Sharks ahead with only 11 minutes left, so nearly became a famous match-winner.

    We were reminded in the game that Bosch is just as comfortable and confident thumping audacious dropped-goal attempts from a long way out, evoking further memories of Steyn’s exploits in his prior life in South Africa.

    For a teenager, Bosch’s consistent accuracy off the tee at a level as high as Super Rugby this season has been eye-opening too, with mentor Braam van Straaten clearly a constructive influence: not only is he the current leading points-scorer (73) in the competition after six rounds, but he is earning a penalty success rate of a giddy 94.4 percent.

    With clinical qualities as a place-kicker to match his trove of open-play skills, and the valuable ability to switch seamlessly between flyhalf and fullback, the Port Elizabeth-born wunderkind is already looking increasingly difficult to overlook for a Springbok XV in the Test season … and especially a “23”, I’d reckon.

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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