Either the player is held back because “he must pay his dues” or he is picked and then unrealistic expectations are heaped on young shoulders.
When the player does not perform as hoped, he is tossed on to the scrap heap. Does anybody remember Gaffie du Toit?
The drop-goal wizard was discovered at Griquas by Andre Markgraaff and the “New Naas Botha” was an instant Bok. But he wasn’t ready and was a gibbering bundle of nerves before long and faded into obscurity. We seldom get the balance right.
“Good enough is old enough” is the well-worn Aussie expression, and it works for them because they have so few players to pick from.
The Kiwis have options galore and they do get the balance right. Ardie Savea, the latest flank sensation in New Zealand, was taken on an All Black tour of Europe and told not to take his boots because he was not going to play. The idea was to introduce him to the environment that he would inevitably occupy in the future - but when the time was right.
It also depends on the temperament of the player. Some are unto the rugby manor born while others need to be groomed through the ranks to grow their self-belief.
All of this brings me to a humble lad from Alexandria in the Eastern Cape. Curwin Bosch grew up with half of his family supporting the All Blacks and half the Springboks. His dad was a rugby nut and played club rugby until 42.
He drummed the game into his son and encouraged him to practice his kicking in the dusty fields of Alexandria every day after school.
When he earned a scholarship to go to boarding school at Grey High in Port Elizabeth, he had played every position in the backline. From scrumhalf to fullback.
His dream of playing for the Springboks grew, especially after he went to the 2011 Springboks v All Blacks match at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, and the Boks won. His hunger to reach the top intensified. He told me he had to curb his goal-kicking training sessions because of knee injuries from overuse.
We know Bosch then proceeded to go through all the right channels until his Super Rugby debut this year - all the age group representative teams in EP and multiple appearances for SA Schools and SA Under 21s.
Earlier this season Bosch came off the bench when Patrick Lambie was injured and had a belter at flyhalf, and the new Naas Botha was duly anointed. Except Bosch might be even better. He has startling pace, an eye for a gap and a sweet sidestep.
Then a curious thing happened last week. Bosch did not have a good game against the Rebels. In fact, he was shown to be positively human. He missed kicks at goals and made his share of elementary errors.
Some folk have started to wonder if he is overrated? So what if he had a bad game. He is only 19, he is going to have those off days.
Just let him play and develop at his own pace. Don’t rush him into the firing line against the French. Have him in the squad and show him the ropes. Let us not crush a rare talent.
At the start of this season, he told me he thought he might be more of a fullback than a flyhalf, and he wanted to use this year to decide once and for all which position suits him best.
The injury to Lambie has made it expedient for the Sharks to have him more at 10 than 15 this season but let’s not forget that a few months ago he thought he might be better suited to fullback.
He is still finding his way in rugby. He has deficiencies in his game.
We know his front-on defence was poor at the start of this season. That is why they have him practising his tackling in the sand pit on the side of the Sharks’ training field most days.
Bosch is a mature, intelligent young man who knows what he wants, and that is a lengthy career for the Springboks. Please can this be one talent that we don’t ruin by expecting too much and pushing him too soon.