Sharks and Junior Boks star Curwin Bosch wants to settle at flyhalf, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Curwin Bosch knows he needs to specialise in one position sooner rather than later. Although he only turned 20 in June, the young Sharks star offers the impression of a supremely professional athlete whose maturity belies his tender age.
Indeed, it’s with this clear-minded temperament that Bosch has already made some firm decisions about the direction in which he wants his rugby career to head. This season has served to add clarity to Bosch’s positional preference after playing a leading role for the Sharks at flyhalf, while he is now under no illusions as to the importance of beginning to settle in one role.
Interestingly, Bosch started his rugby-playing days as a scrumhalf, before playing in almost every position in the backline during his school career. In the end, by the time the widely-heralded teenager left Grey High in Port Elizabeth, there were many who firmly felt fullback remained his best position.
Bosch predominantly played at fullback for the Junior Springboks at the 2016 World Rugby U20 Championship, while he also starred in the No 15 jersey during the Sharks’ Currie Cup campaign last year. Yet, when SA Rugby magazine caught up with Bosch towards the end of that domestic season, it was clear the prodigiously talented youngster was understandably still making up his mind as to where his long-term future lay.
‘I only recently left school and haven’t really had time to settle into a position,’ he said at the time. ‘I’m using this year to see where I am physically and mentally – I want to take everything into account – but from next year I want to settle in a position.’
That position continued to look as if it would be fullback, but it all changed rather quickly when Pat Lambie suffered a serious back injury during the early stages of the Sharks’ third-round Super Rugby match against the Waratahs in March. Bosch came off the bench and slotted seamlessly into the flyhalf berth, contributing 27 points as the Durban-based side clinched an impressive 37-14 win. And so a Super Rugby star was born.
From there, and through the long-term absence of Lambie, Bosch made the No 10 jersey his own as he raced to a tally of 128 points over 677 minutes of game time before the June international break. As Bosch continued to perform with aplomb week in and week out, so the calls began to increase for him to be recognised with a Springbok call-up.
‘If he’s good enough, he’s old enough,’ was the common rhetoric that circulated in South African rugby circles as fans around the country quickly hailed the arrival of the latest wunderkind.
In the end, the debate turned out to be somewhat of a moot point; Bosch was included in the Junior Boks squad for this year’s U20 Championship, with coach Chean Roux advocating his belief that the Sharks’ versatile back was best suited to the flyhalf berth. When SA Rugby magazine touched base with Bosch just before the Junior Boks’ departure to Georgia, he admitted that he was not oblivious to the talk doing the rounds in the public and media regarding his readiness to step up to the Springbok stage.
‘I don’t believe age plays a role any more,’ he said. ‘If you can carry out the game plan as coached and you are comfortable with the physicality of the game, then I think a player is ready. Of course you need to be able to perform at that level, but that goes without saying. As rugby players, we need to continue to improve, and we always have something to work on. I have been working really hard on my defence and [Sharks] coach Rob [du Preez] has helped a lot with that.’
It’s one of the reasons why Bosch is in no rush to skip any important stepping stones on his development path. According to the Opta stats used by Sanzaar, Bosch’s tackle success percentage over the first 15 rounds of Super Rugby was 59, but it’s an area of his game that he is constantly working on, while his strength and conditioning is sure to improve as he gets older.
Indeed, if there is one thing that stands out about this young man, it is the fact he remains eminently humble and unafraid to put in the hard yards to achieve his ultimate goal of representing the Springboks – albeit, all in good time.
‘The message in the pre-season was very clear: every player who wanted to represent the Sharks had to put up their hand and perform to earn that spot,’ he explained. ‘I appreciated that and knew I had to work hard for everything up to now, and I’ve really enjoyed the transition to flyhalf. It has challenged me in every situation and I’ve loved each moment, while I feel like I’ve learned something new in every game.’
Bosch’s attacking stats in his first 10 Super Rugby games for the Sharks certainly tell a story of a player making the most of every opportunity on the field. Besides his tally of 128 points, he made 68 carries, 402m with ball in hand, seven clean breaks and beat 19 defenders.
‘Spotting space is one of my strengths,’ he reflected. ‘I love playing with the ball and trying to manipulate the defence, but I’m also very fortunate to have top-quality players around me to help in that regard, so credit must go to them. At the end of the day, I enjoy being in control of my own game, and at flyhalf I can do just that. As I’ve said, it is challenging, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.’
This assertion ultimately leads back to the million-dollar question: which position would he most like to play?
‘I prefer flyhalf,’ he acknowledged. ‘At fullback you learn how flyhalves read the game, so you can be in position to field kicks, while at flyhalf you soon learn that line speed is everything at that level, so you have to keep adjusting.’
And did he feel there is now a need to specialise?
‘Definitely,’ he answered emphatically. ‘The old saying is true that you don’t want to be a jack of all trades, but a master of none. Having said that, rugby is a team sport, and as a player you simply want to do your best to help the team, no matter what. That is my main objective.’
– This article first appeared in the July 2017 issue of SA Rugby magazine