Johannesburg - If teen prodigy Curwin Bosch seems born for Super Rugby, it is because he was lauded for his exploits on the field even at school.
Now aged 19, Bosch should be fiddling with a GPS on the field as he tries to find his way at a level just under Test rugby. Yet, more often than not, he is the one giving direction.
In the seven games he has played this season, Bosch has almost always played a part in winning games for the Sharks: from the bench (late against the Brumbies and early against the Waratahs), from fly half or fullback, and from the kicking tee and out of hand.
As a result, Bosch – who only played his first Super Rugby game last year – found himself the leading point scorer in the competition this week.
Tim Fraser, who coached the two-time SA Schools player at Grey High in Port Elizabeth, says seamless adjustment to a higher level has always been Bosch’s calling card.
“Starting from his first-team debut, against Paul Roos Gymnasium when he was 16, he was the general in that game in tough conditions. That day, you knew. He had composure, maturity and self-belief,” says Fraser.
“At Under-13, he was kicking barefoot and kicking distances I had never seen at junior school. His passing was also like something I had never seen at that age. I have spoken to the guys he played with and they all agree he has not been coached.
“We might have shared ideas with him, but he was so ahead of the curve that a lot of what he did was down to his understanding of rugby and understanding space,” add Fraser.
Space is a word that comes up often when Bosch is mentioned, especially with reference to his intuitive feel for where it is on the field.
Naas Botha, the original prober of space in the 1980s, feels it is a quality that underpins Bosch’s many skills as a player.
“Overall, he has fantastic passing skills. He is one of the few fly halves who understands tactical kicking, and he can see space when it comes to tactics,” Botha says.
Fraser has two examples of this from Bosch’s last two years at Grey High.
“I remember one try we scored against Boland Landbou – Curwin stepped about five of their guys close to our try line and we went on to score. It was like that famous try the Barbarians scored against New Zealand in 1973.
“And when we beat Grey College in Bloemfontein in 2014, he recovered a kick inside his own half, chipped the defence and went on to score. It said everything about him – his vision to see it and backing himself to pull it off.”
A large part of why Bosch has emerged as a man-child seemingly ready for the highest level is his dedication.
“He is one of the hardest-working players I have ever seen,” says Fraser.
“When it comes to his passing, kicking and conditioning, I have never seen a harder working player. He used to work on his speed with the athletics guys and train on Sundays. You would drive past the school and he would be there, and when you came back, he would still be there.”
A Sharks insider agrees: “He can kick a ball, but he still doesn’t take it for granted. He stays behind after practice to work on it. Also, naturally talented boys like that shirk a little when it comes to gym, but I have heard no complaints from the conditioning coaches.”
Bosch’s commitment stretches to keeping his nose clean off the field.
“He stays with our other juniors in Morningside in Durban, but you won’t see him hitting Florida Road [the party hub], where we find the others.”
Asked where Bosch’s drive comes from, Fraser says that although the youngster had humble beginnings in Alexandria in the Eastern Cape, he believes Bosch’s motivation is more from “an absolute love for rugby and a desire to succeed. He knows that the more he works, the more successful he becomes.”
But if there is a chink in Bosch’s armour, it is a body that has not caught up with an apparent desire to put opposition players on their backsides in the tackle.
At 1.8m tall and weighing 83kg, Bosch is no Frans Steyn, but Botha would hate to see that used against him as he is already getting a reputation for not wanting to tackle.
“Soon people will go on about how small, light or whatever he is. But size has nothing to do with rugby ability – [Beauden] Barrett and [Damian] McKenzie have proven that. Defensively, I don’t think he is weak at all. He is never going to tackle Eben Etzebeth, but no other fly half can do that,” says Botha.