Durban - Curwin Bosch survived his litmus test against Griquas but he is set to be returned to fullback for the Sharks’ Currie Cup semi-final meeting with the Golden Lions at Kings Park, SuperSport.com reports.
Defence coach Braam van Straaten has pronounced himself satisfied with Bosch’s defensive effort in the flyhalf channel in the Sharks’ 41-11 win in Kimberley. That is the biggest question mark over Bosch’s game, and was where he was shown up in the play-off phase last year by Western Province.
Robert du Preez, who played alongside Bosch at inside centre against Griquas, was in the Western Province side last October, and he slotted straight into the No 10 jersey when he switched back to the province where he was schooled and played his early age-group rugby. Going through the year uninjured meant that Du Preez started every game at flyhalf - until last Saturday.
However, while Bosch recovered from some understandable early rustiness to turn in a classy all-round performance, and Du Preez looked the part at inside centre, the plan was never to persist with the selection into the knock-out phases.
“Curwin is our back-up flyhalf and we need to give him game time in that position in case he is needed,” was the way Sharks coach Robert du Preez senior put it before the trip to Kimberley.
According to the way the Sharks trained at the start of the build-up week to the clash with the Lions, Bosch will return to fullback, with Du Preez moving back to flyhalf.
“Curwin made a few errors early on but to be fair he hadn’t started at flyhalf for a while,” said defence coach Braam van Straaten, who of course was a Stormers and Springbok flyhalf in his day and knows a few things about kicking the ball.
“We all know how talented he is and going forward he might play there on occasions. He is a great kicker of the ball... he can control the game and territory with those long, low kicks of his.”
More significantly, because no-one really needs to be told about Bosch’s kicking ability or his all-round X-factor, Bosch delivered against Griquas in his area of weakness.
“Curwin’s defence was really good against Griquas. He defended his channel well, and there were some big boys coming his way.”
While the reversion to the pre-Kimberley backline configuration, with Marius Louw slotting back into the team at inside centre alongside Du Preez, was always on the cards, it is going to be interesting to see what the Sharks do with other aspects of their team.
Springbok Jean-Luc du Preez got his first run in three months when he came on as a replacement against Griquas and he showed some good touches. He is a special player and for a semi-final he is a must selection if he is fit, but Jacques Vermeulen has been excellent in his absence. Perhaps the pair will play together on the flank, with Dan du Preez completing a formidable back row.
Then there is the question of Akker van der Merwe versus Chiliboy Ralepelle, and Coenie Oosthuizen versus Thomas du Toit. Van der Merwe played well against Griquas and Louis Schreuder was solid in his first outing as team captain, but Ralepelle was appointed captain for the season.
Oosthuizen played 80 minutes in his first full match since coming back from a long injury lay-off and is clearly ready to start in a semi-final but we will have to wait and see if that leads to the possibility of Du Toit moving back to his old position on the loosehead side of the scrum, even if just for this deciding phase of the domestic season (Beast Mtawarira will of course be back for Super Rugby leaving Du Toit and Oosthuizen to rotate at tighthead).