Marnitz Boshoff is too good to be ignored as a national squad member, writes MARK KEOHANE in Business Day newspaper.
The Lions flyhalf, who is equally comfortable at fullback, gave another reminder of his range of skills as the Lions ended the Cheetahs' Currie Cup aspirations.
Boshoff was the Lions' standout player in this season’s Super Rugby and his form earned him a Springbok call-up for the June internationals. Injury cut short Boshoff’s impact but his form in the Currie Cup has been imposing and influential.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer’s first choice is Handré Pollard – and on this count there can be no argument. Meyer identified Pollard as a 15-year-old and the Cape-based teenager committed to the Bulls as a first professional destination.
Meyer has always believed Pollard to be a special player, but he no doubt thought Pollard’s breakthrough year would come a year after the 2015 World Cup. Fortunately it has come a year before rugby’s global showpiece.
But injury ends a player’s season very quickly and amid the hype of Pollard’s arrival, it’s equally important to ensure the reserve depth is functioning and equally capable of delivering at international level.
Meyer’s Bok insurance policy since 2012 has been Morné Steyn, the boy he turned into a man at the Bulls. Meyer converted Steyn from a No 12 to a 10 and ensured he turned his goal-kicking into a profession that would define his Test and Super Rugby career.
Steyn, in the past month has been cast the villain of Bok rugby on the basis of a missed touch from a penalty, the consequence of which was an Australian try-scoring counter-attack and last-minute 24-23 win in Perth.
Steyn was axed and Pollard was given a start against the All Blacks in New Zealand. The rest isn’t quite history, but Pollard retained the starting role against the Wallabies and All Blacks in South Africa. And he has blossomed.
The Test jersey is his to lose, rather than keep. Legendary Bok flyhalf master and SuperSport analyst Naas Botha said Pollard would be the Bok flyhalf for the next 10 years if he remained fit. He is easily the most complete of the South African flyhalf prospects.
But in Boshoff, Meyer may just have a younger and potentially better version of Steyn, whose season has turned dramatically for the worse. He is down on confidence, down in the Bok pecking order behind Pollard and Pat Lambie and potentially out of contract at Stade Français, who want an early release for Steyn.
Boshoff’s domestic form will only add to the complications of Steyn’s immediate international future. I still believe Meyer will be loyal to Steyn when it comes to World Cup selection. You don’t dump such international experience and any player who has scored 31 points in a Test against the All Blacks has a quality to his game.
Steyn can play Test rugby, but he can’t do what Pollard does to trouble the defence. And he doesn’t quite have the all-round attacking game of Boshoff.
Lambie has been given starts at flyhalf for the Boks in the Meyer tenure but was more adequate than awesome. His greatest contribution has come in the last two Tests, when he produced his most inspiring 20 minutes of Test rugby against the Wallabies in Cape Town.
His last-minute 55m penalty kick to beat the All Blacks at Ellis Park also ensures that while he is not the starting favourite he is also not the forgotten man of Bok rugby.
Boshoff is also not going to be easily forgotten if he continues to play as he has done all season. His versatility in playing 10 and 15 is an advantage and there is no substitute for his goal-kicking accuracy.
Bonus-point tries may prove the difference in winning the Rugby Championship but goal-kicking wins World Cups.
Johan Goosen (in France) and Elton Jantjies (in Japan) are another two gifted Bok No 10s. Let’s not dismiss their claims or their youthfulness. Both have played Test rugby and both are still in their early 20s. Their overseas stints will mature their game and they provide impressive cover to the likes of Pollard, Lambie and Boshoff, who will be critical to the Lions Currie Cup title aspirations.
The Lions, in dismantling the Cheetahs, are favourites to play Western Province in the Currie Cup final.
And if they are to win it – and they’ve been my favourites from the outset – Boshoff will be among the reasons they’d have done it.
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images