OPINION: Bosch or Du Preez for Boks?

Mon, 30 Oct 2017 12:26

WHAT THE COACHES SAY: It is a debate that has been raging for weeks and the hysteria will continue well into next month's year-end Tests.

No doubt the selection of Curwin Bosch ahead of an in-form Robert du Preez junior for the Springboks has further fanned the flames of an intense deliberation.

Instead of just mindlessly chewing the cud, we decided to look at the form of these two players in three key areas of a flyhalf's make-up - goal-kicking, game management and defence.

It is obvious that Elton Jantjies (27, 20 Test caps) and Handré Pollard (23, 22 caps) are coach Allister Coetzee's preferred flyhalves.

Bosch (20, one cap off the bench) is there to be 'nurtured' for the future.

However, is he the next best on merit?

In my view, certainly not.

No doubt he is talented, but he also has some obvious weaknesses in key areas.

It was blatantly obvious in a couple of crunch matches this past month.

Twice he went head-to-head with Robert du Preez junior and twice he came up short.

The Blue Bulls' New Zealand coach John Mitchell was the first to warn against rushing the raw youngster - who was still at school just two years ago - into the Test arena.

Now his own provincial coach, Sharks mentor Robert du Preez senior, pointed out Bosch's obvious flaws - areas they have been working on and still need to work on.

And Western Province coach John Dobson has also sung the praises of Robert du Preez junior - after he twice outplayed Bosch in crucial Currie Cup matches.

So let us then look at those crucial aspects that would have made Du Preez, 24, a better 'development' option for the year-end tour.

Bosch has been a liability on defence and has been missing too many one-on-one tackles - a fact readily admitted by his coach. His tackle completion rate in the Currie Cup Final was just 67 percent and an equally dismal 75 percent for the season.

Du Preez, a more physical specimen than the willowy Bosch, did not miss a single tackle in the Final and his tackle completion rate for the season is at 90 percent.

Goal-kicking is another area that has been listed as a 'work-on' - to use coaches speak - for young Bosch. He ranks No.1 for both missed conversions and missed penalties this season. That is based on the 685 minutes he played in the Currie Cup competition. Bosch does rank No.1 for successful drop-goals - he kicked one in the final and five for the season.

Du Preez, who played just 475 minutes this season and missed two conversions if the Final, is ranked sixth worst for conversion failures and second behind Bosch in terms of missed penalties.

However, it is in terms of game management where Bosch seems to have failed badly in crunch matches this season. While he can obviously kick the leather off a ball, his decision-making let him down in both encounters with WP this past month. It put his team under pressure and they lost both games (21-33 in the Final and 20-31 in the league fixture), despite leading at half-time.

In contrast, Du Preez was significantly better, especially in the Final - where he showed great leadership in helping Province race away for the Sharks in the second half, after trailing 15-21. That game-management was highlighted by both coaches after the Final as a significant factor.

Those defending Bosch's selection will point to his age - 20.

However, at 24 Du Preez is still young enough to play in at least two more World Cups - 2019 and 2023.

On top of that, he is a far more rounded player and deserves a chance.

So why wasn't he selected?

That is a question Bok coach Allister Coetzee will have to answer this week, unless his fan club and praise singers highjack the media briefings - as they have often done in the past.

It is obvious form - one of Coetzee's supposed main criteria - is not the reason for this selection.

By Jan de Koning
@king365ed
@rugby365com