The argument that Robert du Preez should be picked ahead of Curwin Bosch as the Sharks’ flyhalf because of his defensive strengths does not hold up, writes DYLAN JACK.
Since joining the Sharks from Western Province in 2018, Du Preez has owned the No 10 jersey, with Bosch primarily making the move to fullback.
It must be said that Du Preez enjoyed an excellent 2018 Vodacom Super Rugby season, especially from an attacking standpoint, finishing as the Sharks’ top points-scorer and second overall in the tournament with 215 points. That included a standout 38-points haul in the Sharks’ victory over the Blues in Auckland.
One of the major arguments that Du Preez should continue as the starting playmaker is his defensive strength, an area Bosch struggled with in his first couple of seasons with the Sharks. This was especially highlighted on two occasions in the 2017 Currie Cup, when Du Preez outplayed his opposite number to ensure that WP won the trophy.
The 25-year-old has struggled to carry that sort of form into 2019, but has still continued to start almost exclusively at flyhalf. Meanwhile, Bosch has only recently won back a starting berth at fullback, featuring in the No 15 jersey for the last three Vodacom Super Rugby games.
In particular, defensive lapses are becoming a common but worrying aspect of Du Preez’s game. In the latest loss against the Reds in Durban, Du Preez missed a crucial tackle – one of two in the match – on Samu Kerevi, which allowed him to set up midfield partner Chris Feauai-Sautia for one of the visitor’s three tries.
The lapses were also apparent in the humiliating 51-17 loss to the Jaguares, while it was also a missed tackle on Burger Odendaal that led to a crucial try for the Vodacom Bulls as they went on to claim a win over the Sharks in round seven.
It does need to be emphasised that a lot goes into the defensive structure of a team and there could be many reasons for Du Preez being exposed on defence.
Still, the statistics don’t make for good reading in favour of the argument that Du Preez should stay at 10 because of his tackling ability. Du Preez has missed a total of 12 of his attempted 45 tackles this season according to Sanzaar’s official statistics. As pointed out above, some of those have been crucial.
It is difficult to compare Bosch due to his relatively limited involvement, but since returning to the team for the last three games, he has yet to miss a tackle.
There is no doubt that Du Preez can still add value to the Sharks’ team at flyhalf, while there may be the argument that Bosch could be a major threat from fullback due to the space he gets while running from deep (as demonstrated in the thrashing of the Lions at Ellis Park).
But arguing that Bosch should be denied a chance to play at flyhalf due to fears over his defensive frailties does need a rethink.
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