The Springbok No 10 jersey: Curwin Bosch mounting a charge in 2020
CAPE TOWN – With Super Rugby almost at the halfway mark and suspended due to the coronavirus, it’s an ideal time to look at the Springboks’ options in each position for new head coach Jacques Nienaber and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus ahead of the Tests against Scotland.
We will take a look at the leading player this season at the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers, and make our final selection. Let’s look at flyhalf …
Bulls: Morné Steyn
The former Springbok stalwart returned to Loftus Versfeld after a number of years in France, and started off reasonably well – the manner in which he drove the Stormers back with his boot at Newlands was impressive.
But that strength of his game soon became the problem for the three-time champions as well. Steyn offered little else, and it played some part in the Bulls failing to register a victory in their first few games.
The 35-year-old, 66-cap Bok pivot stood too deep in the pocket and seldom engaged the defence with ball-in-hand, having made just six runs in 320 minutes of game-time.
Youngster Manie Libbok breathed some life into their attack in the victory against the Highlanders, and will hope that new director of rugby Jake White sticks with him in the No 10 jersey.
Lions: Elton Jantjies
Despite a struggling Lions side, Springbok World Cup winner Jantjies has stood out. After finally becoming the captain, the 29-year-old has tried almost everything to get his team going.
Not renowned for his carrying ability, Jantjies has made eight tackle-busts from 33 runs, as well as three line-breaks. He has kept defences busy, but it hasn’t translated into victories for a young Lions outfit, who have one win out of six matches.
Jantjies has also made considerable use of his left boot, with 49 kicks and 1 793 kick-metres, both second only to the Sharks’ Curwin Bosch, but his goal-kicking percentage is just over 63.
His tackle stats, though, need to improve, as he has made just 19 and missed 11.
Sharks: Curwin Bosch
The schoolboy star has arrived in Super Rugby after being ill-treated by former coach Robert du Preez. Bosch is flourishing under new mentor Sean Everitt – and kicking consultant Pat Lambie is certainly aiding his approach in 2020.
Bosch is playing with all the confidence and swagger that made him one of the most gifted junior playmakers. It helps that he has a hard-working pack who is supplying good ball and a lethal backline who know their way to the tryline, but it is ultimately the general who has to provide the spark.
The 22-year-old has matured in his game management by going to the boot when required, but has produced his natural flair to unleash the likes of Andre Esterhuizen, Lukhanyo Am and Makazole Mapimpi, while he has dove-tailed smartly with fullback Aphelele Fassi.
His ability to slot long-range penalties may just earn him a Bok recall, while his defence has also improved.
Stormers: Damian Willemse
He is regarded as the next wunderkind of South African rugby, and having got a taste at the World Cup, Willemse is well on his way.
But things haven’t quite fallen in place in 2020 for the 21-year-old from Strand. He is an all-action operator – he runs hard at defences, pushes for line-breaks, and looks for the smallest of gaps with his devastating side-steps (16 tackle-busts), while also getting stuck in on defence.
That is why so many rugby lovers are excited by Willemse – but in the same breath, it could be his downfall.
The Paul Roos product arguably tries too much on his own with ball-in-hand, which his coach John Dobson says results in him being “on the floor” too often instead of dictating matters as the pivot.
Willemse has had some thrilling moments this season, but that has been overshadowed by the lack of distance in his kicking game, and a couple of missed goal-kicks that has equated to a 56 percent success rate.
Elton Jantjies is the official back-up to Handre Pollard for the Springboks, but Curwin Bosch is the best No 10 in South Africa this year.
Statistics: super.rugby and foxsports.com.au@AshfakMohamed