Criticism of Curwin Bosch must not be the enduring takeaway from a Currie Cup final that should be celebrated for the resilience of South African rugby, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
In a drama-filled title decider, interrupted by lightning, and with a winner only decided in extra-time, there’s always going to be a sequence of recriminations and ‘what-ifs’ for the team on the losing end.
And considering the Sharks ultimately relinquished a 10-point lead, it made it even more likely that a scapegoat would be found. As it was, Bosch made for an easy target after a series of missed shots at goal (I’ll concede to even losing count over 100 minutes of play).
It shouldn’t be forgotten that Bosch is no stranger to criticism. It really wasn’t all that long ago that Bosch was hammered by ‘couch coaches’ for a fragile defence that was perceived to be an indefensible weakness.
Yet, such criticisms have largely fallen silent this season as Bosch received the unequivocal backing of Sharks coach Sean Everitt to serve as the first-choice No 10, and in a role that was designed to maximise his strengths rather than expose his weaknesses.
A booming long-range boot is undoubtedly Bosch’s biggest weapon, and more than once during the course of this campaign, it was his goal-kicking prowess that enabled the Sharks to progress into winning positions.
Yet, in the final, he faltered. Willing to line up kicks from more than 50 metres out, it was always going to be a case of glory or gut-wrenching disappointment.
As it turned out, a most uncharacteristic off-day meant that Bosch inevitably came into the firing line for leaving points out there that could have sent the Sharks into an unassailable lead.
What’s largely overlooked in these moments of social media mayhem, however, is the fact that Bosch is still just 23 years old.
Say what you like, but temperament, and particularly big match temperament, is not something that you simply have or don’t have. It can come with time, and often through experiences such as that which Bosch experienced on Saturday.
Handre Pollard, for example, turned up at the 2015 World Cup as a talented but temperamental 21-year-old, with his goal-kicking perceived to be a worrying weakness for a player boasting numerous other natural gifts.
Yet four years later, as a more mature and well-rounded player, Pollard was the Springboks’ ultimate ‘ice man’ as he calmly and confidently slotted kick after kick at goal to lead his side to World Cup glory.
No one will be hurting more than Bosch after Saturday’s final, but as one of the most resilient athletes in South African rugby, this will be another true test of his character.
In fact, ‘resilience’ is the buzz word that should be celebrated for all the players who have battled through the most extraordinary season of local rugby.
On the eve of the final, I was reminded by a friend in the industry just how mentally challenging it has been for players and management to keep the tournament alive.
Besides the Covid-19 outbreaks that have impacted most squads and numerous players in terms of match-day planning, there are many who have also tragically lost friends and family to the pandemic.
Every week they have had to go through a round of testing, anxiously awaiting results, while the significant pay cuts that have been enforced industry-wide have sharply brought into focus the threat facing the game at this time.
All the while, as matches have been called off, and squads disrupted in different ways, those in the industry have sought to ‘let the main thing stay the main thing’ – to borrow the motto of Rassie Erasmus.
The ‘main thing’ has revolved around remaining adaptable in the face of the most considerable challenges, while ensuring a Currie Cup product of some shape or form could be completed.
That, for me, is a far more important talking point than any criticisms over the quality of play during the season, or a misfire from one player for that matter.