Bosch is nowhere

Mike Greenaway

The announcement of the Springbok squad on Monday revealed Rassie Erasmus’ pecking order for fullback as well as confirming the coach’s preferences at flyhalf, and nowhere to be seen is the name Curwin Bosch.

In fact, the 21-year-old has not been mentioned, even in dispatches, by Erasmus since he was released from the enlarged Springbok squad that was picked ahead of the series against England. In the short to medium term, this spells bad news for the prodigiously-talented youngster from the Eastern Cape.

The message to Bosch, either tacitly or directly, is clear: you won’t be considered until your defence is up to scratch.

To a degree, Bosch is a victim of circumstance – his proven ability at flyhalf was not showcased at the Sharks this year because Robert du Preez was firmly entrenched in the position. Du Preez started every single match for the Sharks and, together with Ruan Botha, played the most minutes for the Durbanites (just over 1000 minutes).

That restricted Bosch to fullback, a position he has said he enjoys just as much as 10, but it does expose him as the last line of defence, and his ability in this regard has long been questioned. Frailties on defence at flyhalf can be covered by the shrewd use of loose forwards. They cannot at fullback.

In Stellenbosch on Monday, Erasmus openly spoke about Damian Willemse being selected predominantly as cover for starting fullback Willie le Roux. Against England, Warrick Gelant was the No 2 fullback and when he comes back from injury late in the Rugby Championship he will either reclaim his spot on the bench, or perhaps find himself behind Willemse — the gifted 20-year-old from the Stormers could quite possibly play himself into a position where he becomes indispensable.

Erasmus has also said this year that Lions fullback Andries Coetzee is close to the squad and the 28-year-old can indeed consider himself unlucky at disappearing out of the mix after starting 13 Tests in 2017.

If the (unofficial) fullback ranking is Le Roux, Gelant, Willemse and Coetzee, that leaves Bosch a distant fifth. And with Handre Pollard and Elton Jantjies the flyhalves, Bosch is nowhere…

It is an unhealthy state of affairs considering the incredible talent and pedigree of the former Grey High Pupil, who has sadly gone backwards since making his Test debut off the bench at fullback almost a year ago against Argentina, and then starting in June against Wales in Washington.

It is the first time that Bosch has been out of favour in his rugby life. Scaling the rugby ladder since he was a pipsqueak at primary school in humble Alexandra, near Port Elizabeth, Bosch has played Eastern Province schools at all age groups, two years of SA Schools (2014-2015), two years of SA Under 20 (2016-2017), plus Super Rugby for the Sharks in his first year out of school and he then debuted for the Boks at age 20.

He is one of the most talented players on the SA scene — blistering pace (10.9 for the 100m at school), a defence-beating side-step (his excellent try for the Sharks against the Highlanders comes to mind), his passing is pin-point and his kicking exceptional – whether out-of-hand, at goal or drop-kicking (a long range drop goal through driving rain against the Bulls last year was incredible).

But that brings us to the chink in his armour. Last year’s Currie Cup final at Kings Park saw Bosch at flyhalf for the Sharks and Willemse at fullback for Western Province. The former had a brilliant first half, including a cracker of a drop goal just before half time, but his second-half defence was costly in the extreme.

Willemse was robust at the back for Province. The 20-year-old has no issues with physicality or defence, prompting Erasmus to say on Monday that he would have no qualms about playing him at fullback.

“Damian reminds me of Frans Steyn, a guy who is ready to play Test rugby from a very young age,” said the Bok coach. “He will get his chance against Argentina.”

Where does this leave Bosch? In March, Bosch said: “It is no secret that people have been worrying about my defence and we have been working on it.

“I feel that my tackling has definitely improved. It is not yet where I want it to be but I am happy to be in a position like fullback where I have to make more tackles. You can only improve on a weakness by testing yourself in match situations.”

Bosch has also spoken about his problem with perfectionism and over-training in the quest for it — for example, at high school he developed a knee problem from practicing his kicking too much.

But that’s because he has lofty goals: “I want to be a great Springbok, I want to be a Jean de Villiers and play 100 Tests.”

The weakness in Bosch’s game is well documented, but the Sharks coaching staff testify to his unstinting work ethic.

Time is on the youngsters’ side; he has the hunger and ambition. Now he has to show patience and let that work ethic do the rest.

- Mike Greenaway

Let's chat

  • Sharky

    Blitz vinnig and super-skilled but his defense needs some work? Put him on the sevens circuit for a season or two? He’s got time on his side and that may be a good developmental step.

    The flyhalf pecking order was also brought up. I would definitely have Pollard and Lambie as my first 2 with Robert DuPreez as the third flyhalf in the squad. But with Lambie still injured I’d place Damian Willemse in there ahead of Jantjies. Jantjies has blown hot and cold (at Bok level) for too long, time to move on.

    • Dr Hoffman

      ok bye, move on now.

    • John Comyn

      I would have said who cares but I never realised Curwin is an ex Grey boy – my alma mater  I don’t think it helps that he is competing with the coach’s son for the 10 spot. Blood is thicker than water. Might be an idea to switch franchises. I’d say the Lions might suit him. I also think he should bulk up a bit. Talking about players off the radar I think Jean-Luc De Plessis is more talented than all the others. If only he can get an extended run without injury. I will guarantee you that if Willemse and Du Plessis are both available for the Stormer/WP Willemse will be at fullback.

      • Shane

        I agree,
        Time for Curwin to move…. maybe to the Lions.

        • Larry

          Lions have Elton Jantjies – leave Bosch alone. I’m pretty sure Bosch is happy at the Sharks. He just needs the bok coach to give him another chance at no 10 ahead of Pollard and Janties for once. At least the Sharks have Bosch and Robert du Preez jnr for Currie Cup

          • Herman Schroder?

            The problem is the Sharks haven’t got a coach that can bring out the best in those players. Cheers.

      • Johan

        How do you know someone is from Grey?

        They’ll tell you…

        • John Comyn

          too true:-) Rassie went to Despatch and also played club rugby for Despatch. They were a good side!

    • Chris Mouton

      I agree with you. Bosch might be a revelation at sevens. There they’ll be able to focus on him more individually. I’d like to see Du Preez get another chance. That “match” in Washington was hardly a good opportunity for him to step up to the plate.

      • Herman Schroder?

        You can’t survive in Sevens if you can’t tackle. Tackling is instinctive and in fifteens you can ‘choose’ your tackle ( just watch D’Allende ) but in Sevens you get horribly exposed. Cheers.

  • Hopeful

    There is no doubt he has good attacking ability but he is nowhere under pressure and defense…

    This is a coaches job to nurture and grow the player, address his weaknesses and flaws to build an all round player…

  • Maxwell

    We need to develop the best 30 talented players in phases and sharp them to become legendary Springboks. At the moment we have
    Pollard en Jantjies Jean-Luc du Plessis and the next phase will be Willemse and Bosch and the under 21 flyhalves and etc. Just as important are the coaches , who play a vital part in the development and the success of the Springbok team.

  • Dean

    Is the writer alluding to the fact that Bosch should be in the squad? That’s a matter of opinion. He knows what he needs to work on and he was given a chance against a 2nd string Welsh team. Many of those players in that game turned in poor performances. Rassie can’t keep including players exclusively on talent alone, it’s time to perform on the field. Not only in derby Super Rugby and Currie Cup games but also consistent performances across the board. I’m a Sharks supporter but I don’t see how Bosch warrants a spot at this stage. Andries Coetzee had a far better season and he wasn’t included either.

    • Barry Smith

      Don’t entirely disagree – I think Curwin should have been given spells at 10 during Super Rugby, but for obvious reasons was not. But he has done a whole lot more in Super Rugby than Willemse has. There has been more press hype about Willemse than action, frankly.
      The closing stage of SR were covered by Jean-luc Du Plessis and before injury Damian put in some pretty average performances, so between then and know, what has happened to justify his selection?

      • Redge

        I feel sorry for both Bosch and Coetzee.

      • John Comyn

        Good point. Willemse spends a lot of time running into the heavy traffic and very little creating space out wide. Stepping front rows is not magic. Rassie talks about rugby EQ and I’m not sure Willemse has it. DuPlessis has and is an intelligent player. Like I said above Du Plessis will be the Stormers 1st choice next season. That said Willemse has loads of talent but is not ready to play flyhalf for the Boks.

        • Redge

          Du Plessis will be out injured again

      • Dean

        I think Willemse cracked the nod due to Gelant and Lambie out injured. If they were both available it would probably be Willie and Gelant (15s) and Pollard, Elton and Lambie (10 and 12 cover).

      • Maxwell

        Bosch is a fullback and you will cut him in half if you play him at flyhalf. Same goes for Willemse. You need to identify the specialist and the allrounder. The coach is responsible for that. Bottom line. Stop this fantasy of all-round players. It degrades the quality of rugby and you losing trophies aswell as complicating coaching.

  • Barry Smith

    Two seasons ago Curwin was the the man and now it’s Damian. Isn’t this typical SA, how we blow hot and cold on young talent!
    How does Bosch differ from Damian McKenzie. They are both slight of build, ok-ish at defence but game changing on attack or with boot. The basic difference is that NZ acknowledge what they have and develop it, both at franchise and National level, whilst SA sends them out to sea with a candle!
    Willemse had some really average moments during SR, before injury and really has done nothing since to justify his elevation. Perhaps Johann Erasmus’ first mistake?

    • Redge

      Agree with the NZ mindset

    • Chris Mouton

      Yeah, it is quite typical of South Africa. No doubt Willemse is talented, but is he more dangerous than Bosch? Bosch has a nasty step on him, is quite fast and and accurate foot to boot (pun intended). His tackling also picked up this season. Bosch knows he had a mediocre season and he’ll work on it. I’d still choose Bosch over Coetzee, as he is a bit more unpredictable. Coetzee knows one move and that is tuck the ball under his arm and take contact.

      Willemse hasn’t played in a while, so I can’t really say how he is now after his injury. Apparently he didn’t really light up the stage during the Junior World Cup, so his selection is interesting. Then again, I believe Rassie wants to give him a fair chance and see what he’s capable of on international stage. So, I’m quite interesting whether he’ll sink or swim. If only Rassie would give Rob du Preez a decent chance. Those 5min in Washington wasn’t really a fair reflection of who he is. We need a better backup than Jantjies. His inconsistency will cost us matches.

      • Bokfan1

        I can say that Willemse was brilliant at U20 RWC. His injury was a big part of the Baby Bokke not progressing further. The other 2 10s are excellent players, but Willemse is used to the pace and pressure of SR and tackling men.

        That and Simelane being moved from 13 (tournament highest try scorer) to the wing for Rass, but I digress…

        Ja is 100% right – it took a few seasons of SR for Damien to get his AB chance. Think he was top points scorer in Sr and still didnt get the AB call-up. If Curwin (or any hot young player) hits those levels in SR then they can be considered to take over at Test level from an incumbent, no?

    • Jay

      To be fair it did take quite some time for Mackenzie to get his first AB cap though. Perhaps Bosch will follow suit. Only a matter of time before the defence is sorted out with his work ethic.

  • Maxwell

    First thing Rassie needs to decide on is to be director or coach of SA Rugby. Do you agree? Why thinking he can do both? NZ are dominating because of professionalism in rugby by SA and the Northern hemisphere. If you look at England ‘ s soccer structures they dominate local and European clubs but is no contest at international level.Same goes for SA

    • Vossie

      I don’t think Rassie had much of a choice, he’ll coach untill the world cup and then appoint someone to take over from him as I understand. Agree with you that the focus should be on the bigger picture though!

  • Lesego

    Agree with posts above that for both Willemse and Bosch we need to follow the McKenzie plan…their development will say a lot about SA coaching ability

  • Herman Schroder?

    I still have to laugh at the automatic No 1 flyhalf ticket Pollard gets in the Bok squad. What has he actually done in the past two years to warrant that label ? If not injured he has played in a Bulls team who were just about plain useless all season. Under a coach that was supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread and still he did not cover himself in any glory. Jantjies gets blamed every time his team loses yet these other pretenders get the ‘pass mark” no matter how they play.

    No doubt some would refer to the first two England tests as being part of their argument but if truth be told it was Faf and Willie that turned those games around with their skill and vision. Imagine if you will Jantjies with his superior distribution skills alongside those two and the pack in control ? Different story.

    However it matters not who is the best flyhalf around, it is the game plan that will dictate who goes where. If it’s safety first conservative rubbish then Pollard is ideal. You won’t win many games or trophies but hey we may just hang onto our 6th world ranking spot if we can win one or two in RC. In other words no change from the past 5 years.

    Rassie is in a unique position here. He is not threatened with dismissal due to poor results and he has ten tests coming up in the next four months to break the mold that has brought SA rugby to it’s knees these past four years. Will he take a solid step into the future and come up with a team and game plan which produces match winning tries or will he hope to ‘kick’ his way to victory. Time will tell.

    In closing and on the Bosch question. The best ‘test’ fullback in the country at the moment is undoubtedly Andries Coetzee !!! Flawless under the highball, tough as nails, kicks well, tackles well and most of all ( when playing for the Lions anyway ) can take the ball up AND distribute with the best of them. He also has the experience of three SR finals and valuable test match experience. If you were playing the AB’s on Saturday who else would you entrust with the fullback berth who has the same credentials ? Cheers.

    • Chris Mouton

      Was wondering when we would get a comment from the man with the Lions-coloured glasses. This article is about Bosch and why he has fallen out of favour. But let’s humour you, seeing that the Lions is all you can ever talk about. Yeah, Jantjies “superior distribution skills” really showed off the backline against the Crusaders in the finals. He distributed so well that he distributed the ball straight to Richie Mo’unga that one time, just to give the poor Saders a break. Jantjies even missed 4 out of 6 tackles so as to lessen the pressure him and his superior distribution skills were putting on the poor Crusaders. I think there was a competition between him and Kwagga on who could miss the most tackles. Coetzee knows only one thing and that’s to run into contact. He’s quite predictable in that way. Even the NZ commentators picked it up.

      Here you can check out the stats yourself:
      http://www.espn.com.au/rugby/playerstats?gameId=292224&league=242041

      • Herman Schroder?

        Jantjies played every second of 19 games in SR and got his team to a final AGAIN. The Lions must be the best team on the planet if they can carry a useless flyhalf for that amount of time, I note that Pollard’s ‘girlie’ tackle in the first England test was never harped on ?. . I’ve seen him and Bosch ‘run over’ many times, so what makes them so special. Compared to Pollard, Jantjies is a lightweight but he still gives it his all. Others duck and dive so they can impress the coach with a clean slate, lol.

        Jantjies does make mistakes but so do all good flyhalves who play a dominant try scoring game. Even the Carter’s and BB’s of this world make them, I’ve seen it many times but their teams win most of the time so all is forgiven. Our other local ‘dom krag’ flyhalves make hardly any mistakes because they try nothing which is another reason why their teams are so pathetic. Yet every move or mistake EJ makes is blown out of all proportion and it’s small wonder his confidence has been affected. He is obviously trying to hard as Mallett alluded to on SS and is the victim of ‘Lions envy’ because he plays in a team that dares to be different.

        By the way stats are highly subjective and meant for coaches to assist them. For instance in the stats for missed tackles a coach would look at each tackle and see why they were missed. There are many factors that can influence a missed tackle and a players ability cannot be judged on numbers alone. If Rassie used stats to pick his team then, judging by the three Franchise’s overall poor performances, hardly any of them would make the Bok squad, lol.

        Give a dog a bad name and hang him sure applies to your post, well done.

        Apart from Willie ( maybe ) name me your fullback for the RC ?. Under Alistair, Andries Coetzee was playing to a typical dom krag game plan of crash and bash but if you watch his games for the Lions especially in 2016 / 7 he linked and distributed with the best of them. He has the skills and the coach needs to utilize them but the problem is Rassie will probably play it conservatively so what the hell throw poor old Willemse to the wolves, after all ‘transformation’ is far more important. Cheers.

      • Redge

        Jantjies distributes behind the advantaged line which is useless. Jantjies had enough opportunities both Willemse and Bosch deserve spots before him

        • Herman Schroder?

          Redge, please read my post to Chris Mouton just above here. Cheers.

    • Barry Smith

      Really Herman, give it a break. The subject here is Curwin Bosch! Not Lions Lions Lions!!

      • Herman Schroder?

        Why not ? Anything positive about the other three Franchises you may wish me to comment on ? Sorry couldn’t find any. But I have stats from the last five years of SR which will make your teeth curl. For example do you know that the three ‘other’ Franchises won only 50 % of their games in the last five years and in the last three years 49%. The Lions won 65% and 73% respectively. And that with a plumb useless flyhalf according to you guys, lol.

        My apologies for going ‘off topic’ by the way I didn’t realize one could not widen the debate on these forums. Cheers.

      • Albert

        Why not just put the entire Lions team out in a Springbok shirt? Oh, wait, because they lost badly against the Crusaders and then everyone gave them kudos for trying really hard.

        I wish they would bring back the tours of old, when NZ came to SA and played mid week matches against the franchise teams. That would give us a clear answer as to the true international ability of all the Lions players. The simple cold hard fact is that international teams are chosen from the best of all the country’s domestic teams. Even NZ don’t just chuck all the ‘Saders players in a black shirt and say “Go on kuds, lit’s play some futy.” No, they even have a couple of Blue’s players in the squad, heaven forbid.

        Anyway, back to Bosch, you could say that if you combined Bosch and Andries Coetzee you would get the best fullback in the world: Unpredictable yet safe. They both have gaping flaws, and should work together and help each other out. And even work with Willie and Gellant.

        • Herman Schroder?

          Albert I have responded to you in the thread just below this one. Cheers.

          • Albert

            Thanks for your comment, even though you struggle a bit to get them in the correct place.

            I see you failed to catch the joke. No worries, keep typing. :)

  • Barry Smith

    As a matter of interest SR stats Curwin Bosch missed tackles 15, Damian Willemse 21!!! Remembering that Bosch played in every game whilst Willemse missed about 6. Raises some questions??

    • Albert

      And Bosch spent all his time at 15 while Willemse was at 10. What are the stats about total attempted tackles, completed tackles, dominant tackles? Stats can only tell a part of the story unless you show all related stats to defence etc. I would also like to know the conversion rate of those missed tackles, i.e. how many led to points for the opposition?

      Both Bosch and Willemse should be in the Bok mix as they are extremely talented and raw as well as ticking the transformation box.

      • Barry Smith

        True, but missed tackles are certainly indicative of defensive frailties. It would suggest that Bosch has been a little unfairly tared! Interestingly Warrick Galant missed 8, though he played a little less than Bosch, but pretty solid! Whilst Damian McKenzie missed 24. Bye the bye.. Jantjies missed 45!

        • Herman Schroder?

          Only one problem with your theory is that the NZ Franchises are all strong ( except the Blues maybe ) whereas in this neck of the woods you have only the Lions and three other very limp biscuits. So your first assertion was right, pick the Lions team you’ll have a far better chance. After all we played against an AB pack and practically an AB back line.in the final and scored two tries in the game. The last time a SA team scored a try in a final was in NZ way back in 1996, go figure. Cheers.

          • Mike Stoop

            Yawn. So tiresome, so predictable.

          • Herman Schroder?

            Sorry Barry this post was meant for Albert in the thread above this one. Cheers.

  • Barend

    Bosch, Willemse , Gaffie du Toit….., all have one thing in common, they are/were pushed to fast to soon. Nothing wrong playing Super rugby, Currie Cup for two or three years before being selected for the top side. Especially in the crucial nr 10 jersey. But no, in SA we have to immediately give the next big talent a spot in the Springbok team when they are still children and then just drop them if they do not meet expectations. A 19/20 year old back is not going to stop tackle a 30 year old 120 kg loose forward running to him at speed 3 times in a row. He will do it once maybe and then wish he was in the stands.
    What happened to old style coaching, nurturing a good talent over time so that they can full fill their promise and give years of good service to rugby and the country instead of being one season wonders? Our rugby has gone off the rails. Willemse and Bosch will not/ can not/ would not win any game for SA in the upcoming clashes.

    • Herman Schroder?

      Spot on old chap. I totally agree. Cheers.

  • Nick

    Barend. On the button. Bosch is a lighty. Jy gain nie oorlog toe met her die even nie. If he’s good, he’ll prove it. You don’t see the all black coach rushing even Richie moanga in, who is a faarrrr better player than curwin.
    Let him grow up. Players like this who grow up making every team possible need to learn a few lessons.

  • Herchelle

    Why not play Bosch at wing similar to what the AB’s did to Dagg & Ben Smith. He has the skill,speed and he has a big boot to get you out of trouble.On defense he has the touchline which he can use as second defender and fullback to help.We need to start thinking out of the box if we want to compete with AB’s and here you have somebody with skill and vision to score tries.We not going to win the AB’s being kicking our goals we need lots of tries

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