Johannesburg - The hypocrisy surrounding the emergence of Sharks player Curwin Bosch as a potential Springbok flyhalf during the Super Rugby season has highlighted how the media can sometimes be complicit in hindering transformation.
In the build-up to his man-of-the-match performance against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein in the Free State last week, a colleague implied that Bosch had a lot to prove by writing that the jury was out on the young player.
While there is nothing necessarily wrong with the statement – 19-year-olds cannot be fully relied upon, nor can they be considered as being fully fledged for the big time – the context in which it was made was a little baffling.
In the three weeks before the Cheetahs game, Bosch came off the bench and hacked ahead the kick from which the Sharks scored a last-minute try to beat the Brumbies in their clash on May 4 at the old Bruce Stadium in Canberra, capital of Australia – an unkind venue to South African teams.
Not content with facilitating miracles there, he was the difference between the Sharks and the Waratahs the next week, when he came on after five minutes for a stricken Pat Lambie at the Kings Park match in Durban.
Then there was the nerveless, late, 50m penalty to help his team avoid what would have been the upset of the season against the Kings on March 18.
Despite a body of work that told the rest of us we had a live one in the former SA Schools (twice) and SA Under-20 player, my colleague – clearly used to better – wanted more.
The suggestion made by that patronising comment was that the former Grey High pupil still had a lot of work to do to prove he belonged at Super Rugby level.
Which was just as well, because Bosch responded with his man-of-the-match shift against the Cheetahs.
After that game, another colleague swallowed Sharks coach Robert du Preez’s bumph about protecting the precocious youngster by playing him at fullback, because flyhalf is a pressure position where so many hard decisions have to be made.
While there is nothing wrong with a flyhalf getting a fullback’s perspective of what an opposition standoff tries to do in a game, surely the least convoluted way to improve as a 10 is to play in the position?
Given how many black players now playing in the three quarters used to play flyhalf, forgive me if I no longer trust a coach who says he is playing a black player at fullback for the experience.
Besides, and this is the point I am trying to make, I do not remember Frans Steyn, Handre Pollard and Jan Serfontein needing all this cotton wool when they were child prodigies coming through in the game.
Put another way, why was 20-year-old Benhard Janse van Rensburg, who has achieved a lot less than Bosch in his formative career, not afforded the same protection when he started in his underwhelming debut against the Kings?
Could not tackle
Rugby has always laboured under the misapprehension that black players need to serve a longer apprenticeship – attend a bridging course, if you will – than their white counterparts to show that they belong at rugby’s top table.
I have said before: it is almost as if there is a belief in rugby that colour plays a part in whether you sink or swim after being thrown in at the deep end. And we, as the media, perpetuate that by making inane statements about black players or allowing coaches to make similar utterances without challenging them.
Some may want to argue that rolling out the red carpet worked because Steyn, Serfontein and Pollard went on to become decent Boks.
But has anyone thought of the fact that the goodwill that accompanies their introduction to that level helps, whereas the likes of Elton Jantjies and Bosch only have doubt ringing in their ears when they get to represent the Boks?
The big concern about Bosch is supposedly his defence, which saw him hidden at hooker every time the Sharks were defending a line-out against the Cheetahs. Naas Botha first made the Northern Transvaal team at age 19 in the 1970s, and still could not tackle when he retired in 1992, but that didn’t stop him being a great player.
Surely Bosch can do slightly better over the next few years or so?
Believe it or not, I am not trying to write Bosch into the Bok team.
All I would like to see is his obvious talent – and other black players’ ability – being afforded the same level of recognition by us media, without adding unnecessary hurdles, given that it’s become permissible to dismiss their achievements because of prejudice, conscious or not.
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