The prospect of Rosko Specman making his Springbok debut at the age of 32 deserves more attention, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
It’s often strange how certain things slip under the radar, and others garner considerable headline attention.
Indeed, it has been with a considerable lack of fanfare that the 32-year-old Specman, the Cheetahs wing and Blitzbok superstar, has slipped into the national alignment camps.
It is in keeping with how the Boks have been going about their business, which has been particularly low key as they remain out of the public spotlight and intensely focused on internal preparations.
The Springbok coaches have been working with an extended group of players, all in keeping with phased entry points into camp as local players from around the country gather, while certain overseas-based stars filter back at different stages.
With the world champs set to play 14 Test fixtures in the space of five months from July onwards, not to mention an SA A game against the British & Irish Lions, it stands to reason that the Boks are operating with an expanded group of players, and a split-squad system is sure to come into play at some point.
However, what it does mean is that certain fringe or backup players could get an opportunity somewhere along the way, and two warm-up matches against Georgia are now on the horizon.
The inclusion of Specman in the Bok set-up is another indication of how the coaches aren’t only enamoured by players with size and physicality on their side.
‘The great thing about the World Cup, and the final against England in particular, was that it showed how valuable those players are on the big stage,’ Specman recently told SA Rugby magazine. ‘Yes, it can be tight in the forwards and aerial contests have their place – but there are moments where you need someone to take advantage of space.
‘Cheslin [Kolbe] did that in the final. He saw the space, and was quick and smart enough to exploit it. His skill and experience allowed him to do that. Size had nothing to do with it.’
What the Bok coaching staff have spotted in Specman is a gamebreaker in the mould of Kolbe, who boasts impressive pace, an ankle-breaking sidestep, and an insatiable work rate that harks back to his sevens days.
Kolbe will walk into the Springbok starting lineup, but he won’t be able to play every game for the Springboks this season, certainly not when considering the congested schedule or when taking stock of how much rugby the World Cup star has played for French club Toulouse recently.
So, if Specman has continued to impress the Bok coaches during these alignment camps, you can rest assured that they will carefully pick and choose the matches and opponents that would be best suited to deploy the Blitzbok flyer.
Of course, it can’t be forgotten that Specman featured prominently in the Springbok Showdown trial game last year.
‘That was a great experience,’ he reflected. ‘For the first time, I was given a clear idea of what it takes to be a Springbok. I got the chance to work with those Bok coaches and players. It was an eye-opener.
‘I watched how Lukhanyo Am communicated with his players and organised the defence. It forced me to think about things in a different way – and to take what I learned back to the Cheetahs. Those are the experiences that boost you as a player.’
There is no doubt that Specman is an assured player, who knows where his strengths and weaknesses lie after a career that has spanned more than a decade and taken him between sevens and fifteens.
The prospect of him now lacing up his boots for a Test debut at the age of 32 is not only exciting, but highly inspirational.