There’s a new fly half in town

2014-03-02 10:00

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Exceptional goalkicking fly halves is in the DNA of South African rugby and a new name can be added to the stellar list – Marnitz Boshoff.

The Lions’ number 10 was pivotal in his side’s surprising and excellent start to the this year’s Super Rugby competition by contributing 50 points in their back-to-back victories over the Cheetahs and the Stormers with his slide-rule placement and deathly drop kicking.

In the first round, in Bloemfontein, he slotted a drop to win it for the Lions with less than a minute of playing time left, and at Ellis Park last week he destroyed the Stormers with three drop goals, six penalties and a conversion, racking up a personal tally of 29 points.

In just a few days, the man seemingly destined to be a stand-in for other fly halves with bigger reputations was suddenly playing the kind of starring role bound to have caught the eye of Bok coach Heyneke Meyer.

From Bennie Osler, to Keith Oxlee, to Piet Visagie, to Gerald Bosch, Naas Botha, Joel Stransky and Morné Steyn, the Springboks have had great benefit from a stand-off who could put points on the board and there is little doubt if Boshoff continues in this vein, Meyer will summon him into his training camp.

Boshoff is more than just a kicker, as he has shown on the occasions when he has been required to turn out at fullback.

He possesses a good turn of speed, is strongly built, enjoys the running style of the Lions and it turns out he was born to play fly half.

Hailing from Nelspruit, the 25-year-old’s father, Jopie, was a fly half and both his elder brothers Chandré and Ruan were number 10s who had stints with the Bulls.

Having played in two Craven Week schoolboy tournaments for the Pumas, being selected for the SA Schools A side after the second, Boshoff made the obvious and natural move to join the Bulls when he became a senior.

But he found himself in the queue behind the likes of Morné Steyn, Jaco van der Westhuyzen and Francois Brummer, and when the chance to transfer to Griquas presented itself in 2011, he moved to Kimberley.

Although he was included in the Cheetahs’ extended training camp, he did not crack the franchise’s Super Rugby squad and was more than keen when his dad, mentor and kicking coach telephoned to say there was an opening at the Lions.

Even then, it was a risk because Elton Jantjies was in possession of the red-and-white number 10 jersey at Ellis Park and the Lions were on their way out of Super Rugby.

But Boshoff was not afraid of competition. He said: “You know, none of the teams have just one good fly half.”

And he got his opportunity for regular game time when Jantjies was loaned out to the Stormers.

His response was to top the Currie Cup point-scoring list with 92 and it was likely that even had Jantjies, who is recuperating from an injury, been fit, he would have been in the starting line-up to make his Super Rugby debut.

Boshoff and coach Johan Ackermann subscribe to Naas Botha’s mantra that the drop kick is the most valuable and demoralising way of scoring points and regular practice sessions to set him up for field goals have already paid off for the Lions.

Boshoff says his calm demeanour when taking place kicks, is something he has worked on with his father and brothers “to block out what’s going on around you and just concentrate on the ball and your technique”.

Subconsciously reflecting his own situation, he adds: “The year out of Super Rugby was good for us – even having a possible tour cancelled because it taught us to pull together, to play for each other and to be hungry for opportunity.”

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