CAPE TOWN – As much as it was the Bulls facing the Sharks on Saturday, it was also Morné Steyn against Curwin Bosch as the two flyhalves battled it out for places in the Springbok squad for the upcoming British and Irish Lions series.
Bosch is the youngster trying to get back into Test rugby, and said as much in the build-up last week: “I do have my eyes on that squad,” he told the media.
The 23-year-old has displayed good form over the last six months, but felt the pressure in the Currie Cup final, where he missed five goal-kicks.
He had the opportunity to redeem himself at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night, and was accurate at the posts. But he couldn’t match Steyn’s variety on attack, with the Bulls No 10’s passing and kicking game in sync.
Bosch had a couple of chances to keep the ball alive on attack in the first half, but opted to kick the ball away – with one bouncing into touch and the other chip going over the dead-ball line.
That was the game plan from the Sharks, but a man with Bosch’s undoubted talent and skill would’ve hoped for better outcomes in such instances.
Steyn, on the other hand, controlled the game superbly for the Bulls. He was on the mark off the kicking tee, and also mixed it up with tactical kicks and adding width to the attack with ball-in-hand.
He ended up with 19 points in a masterclass performance on the night, was chosen as the Man of the Match, and no doubt proved to Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber that he can still play a role in Test rugby if needed.
“He is part of those alignment camps, and I know he’s been earmarked in that group. I know that he loves Loftus – you can see he loves playing here. And it’s wonderful to have him… his experience tonight again,” Bulls coach Jake White said.
“That little kick he threw down into that right-hand corner there, he turned them around again and just showed his class.
“There were times when he just got his forward pack going forward, and they slowly, slowly squeezed the Sharks into places where they could make mistakes, and then we capitalised.”
The man himself, who will turn 37 in July, was typically modest in the post-match SuperSport TV interview. “I think it was a whole team performance. It’s always easier for a 10 to play behind a pack like that. So ja, credit to the whole team,” said the 66-Test-cap pivot.
“We all made a lot of mistakes, especially in the aerial battle… we lost a lot of balls. But in the second half, everything came together.”
Bulls captain Duane Vermeulen couldn’t hide his happiness with Steyn’s contribution.
“It’s amazing that throughout his career, he hasn’t had any major injuries. It’s amazing how he looks after his body, and the way he plays and the way he controls the game – it’s just magnificent to have a guy with such stature in your team,” the No 8 told SuperSport.