Finding the means to fully harness the enigmatic talent of a player such as Curwin Bosch should be a top priority for SA rugby and the Sharks, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
At the end of 2017, Bosch was a nominee for SA Rugby Young Player of the Year. That season, he made his Bok debut in the Rugby Championship, while spending the majority of the year involved in the national setup.
It was a good place to be for the youngster who had been widely hailed as a child prodigy throughout his teenage rugby days down in the Eastern Province. From as early as 2013 (when Bosch would have been just 16), one can find a ‘tribute video’ on YouTube showcasing the backline boy wonder in action for Grey High.
Since then, Bosch’s career has generally followed an upward trajectory, but it’s the past 12 months that have not exactly followed the scripted expectations. In fact, some warning signs started flashing when Sharks coach Robert du Preez rather publicly suggested after the 2017 Currie Cup final that Bosch needed to do some serious work on his one-on-one defence.
There was a sense of irony to it all, as surely both player and coach need to accept equal responsibility for this aspect of play. In effect, it spelled the end of Bosch’s time at flyhalf for a protracted period. The subsequent arrival of Rob du Preez Jnr at the Sharks saw him quickly claim the No 10 jersey, which he wore virtually throughout 2018.
Suddenly, Bosch was seen almost exclusively as a fullback. In one sense, it was a form of accommodating the selection of both Du Preez and Bosch, while seemingly also allowing the latter to continue working on his tackling away from the heavy defensive channel at first receiver.
At fullback the Sharks were able to bank on Bosch’s missile-like boot, while at times he demonstrated the dazzling footwork that largely led to his identification as such a rare young talent. If anyone needs reminding, go back to week 12 of Vodacom Super Rugby last year when Bosch left Waisake Naholo for dead with a devastating sidestep before ghosting through the Highlanders defence to set up one of the tries of the season.
Yet, it was moments such as these that were all too fleeting in 2018. For the most part, Bosch never really seemed to have quite the same swagger. Although he started at fullback in the Boks’ one-off Test against Wales on 2 June, he fell by the national wayside thereafter. As a young player who boasts attributes not dissimilar to All Blacks star Damian McKenzie, one has to wonder whether enough is being done to ensure Bosch’s trajectory returns to the positive.
It’s no secret that Du Preez and former Sharks assistant coach Dick Muir clashed over who should be playing at flyhalf. Having also chatted to a coach closely involved with the Blitzboks, he suggested that Bosch could actually benefit from a stint in the sevens setup, where there is the time and capacity for coaches to work one-on-one with players to hone certain skills such as defence.
Peter de Villiers once shared very strong views on the way Bosch needed to be managed. The former Bok coach said that Bosch was blessed with innate rugby ability in his DNA, but highlighted that such a rare talent can sometimes be difficult to manage for some coaches.
De Villiers insisted that these extraordinary players would always be capable of playing in different positions, but should ultimately be destined just for one. Moreover, and most of all, he said that Bosch must be afforded the freedom to ‘trust his instinct and individual brilliance within the parameters of the team’s principles’.
That didn’t quite seem to be the case in 2018. In the end, Bosch opted to head to Japan for an off-season stint with the Sanix Blues, and returned to Durban apparently having added a few extra kgs to his diminutive frame.
Bosch subsequently started at flyhalf in the Sharks’ pre-season games, and appeared set to retain the No 10 jersey for the season-opener against the Sunwolves, but then suffered an injury that has ultimately limited his involvement to three appearances among the substitutes so far this season.
Is the best being brought out of a player who surely boasts all the raw ingredients to become a great of the game?
It’s a question that needs to be asked and answered, as it would be an absolute indictment if he isn’t equipped with the necessary tools and support structures to reach his full potential.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images