Having been released from the Springbok squad ahead of the third and final Test against England last month, Curwin Bosch’s fall from being a child prodigy just two years ago looked somewhat complete with his omission from the list of Sharks players to join the Boks in camp this week.
Of course, it is probably less a fall than it is a return to franchise level to continue paying his school fees, but what isn’t clear is in what position he is supposed to be doing said homework. The path to Springbok flyhalf is blocked by Handré Pollard, Elton Jantjies and Damian Willemse, while Willie le Roux and Warrick Gelant are ahead in the fullback pecking order.
Truth be told, few rugby fans or even misguided columnists like this one labour under the impression that he should be ahead of any of those players.
Pollard has provided mental stability to the Bok 10 jersey; Jantjies continues to tempt Rassie Erasmus and co with what might be if he were to translate his Super Rugby form into international rugby; and Willemse appears to be the rugby gods’ raw answer to South Africa’s prayers for a complete flyhalf.
Le Roux and Gelant are, well, more natural fullbacks than Bosch. And this is the catch with the recently turned 21 Bosch – is he a flyhalf or a fullback? The easiest way to solve these riddles may be to look at the player’s Twitter handle, and Bosch’s is @Curwinbosch10.
But Sharks coach Robert du Preez has decided that, for the moment, one hopes, he is a fullback, owing to his son Robert Jr having moved from Western Province last year ostensibly to start at flyhalf and the fact that Bosch’s defence has been more speed bump than roadblock in the frontline of the 10 channel.
The move to fullback was supposed to help round Bosch out as a young flyhalf and ease the pressure of having every man and his dog zoning in on him in defence at stand-off. Looking at his recently concluded Super Rugby season at fullback, it wasn’t a bad one.
Through a combination of a howitzer boot, good feet and a wonderful ability to hit the line at pace and the right angle, Bosch did enough to make Erasmus’ first Bok squad and add to his two caps from last year.
But he hasn’t looked all the way convincing under the high ball, and entrusting your weakest defender with the last line of defence may be solving one problem and creating another in the process. Also, it doesn’t help that the “up-skilling” of his stand-off play by banishing him to fullback has barely seen him entrusted with playing flyhalf – which is probably the best way to learn – this season.
If that was the case, a formal rotation policy with Robert Jr would have been put in place. But it would seem the only thing that qualifies any of the Du Preez brothers for rotation these days is time out with a lengthy injury.
A quick glance at Bosch’s timeline on Twitter shows that he’s gone the religious scriptures route, which may or may not mean he’s taking his dramatic “fall” hard. But it’s not entirely a bad thing for the game to do its bit to ground him after a fêted arrival in the professional ranks that bristled with hype and innuendo about a salary a zero too many for one straight out of school.
Yet that doesn’t justify throwing out the child prodigy with the bathwater.
We have to remember that, before Bosch’s defence proved about as firm as wet toast, he was a breath of fresh air at flyhalf with the aforementioned skills, wonderful game sense and smarts, and the ability to deliver on that party trick strangely revered by South African rugby fans – dropping or place-kicking from the parking lot.
Apart from that iffy defence – which defence coach Omar Mouneimne says can be fixed, by the way – Bosch is there thereabouts with Pollard, Jantjies and Willemse, ability wise.
But surely he needs to play in his preferred position before judgment can be passed and he is confined to the journeyman’s scrapheap at the ripe old age of 21?