Turn­ing Bosch into a de­fen­sive power tool

CityPress - - Sport - SIMNIKIWE XABANISA sports@city­press.co.za

Robert du Preez sounded a lit­tle like a man whose coach­ing was com­ing to the end of its tether.

“We’ve worked re­ally hard on Cur­win [Bosch] and his one-on-one de­fence‚” the Sharks coach was quoted as say­ing af­ter the Cur­rie Cup fi­nal. “It’s def­i­nitely an area of his game that he is go­ing to have to work hard on‚ es­pe­cially play­ing in­ter­na­tional rugby.”

Bosch’s de­fence – which is more speed bump than road­block – had been com­ing un­der in­creas­ing scru­tiny dur­ing the Su­per Rugby and Cur­rie Cup sea­sons. In the fi­nal of the lat­ter last week­end, Bosch brought the crit­i­cism to fever pitch by miss­ing two cru­cial tack­les against win­ners Western Prov­ince in the sec­ond half.

And just like that the 20-year-old went from hav­ing had a great first half be­hind a los­ing pack to not only hav­ing his place in the sub­se­quent Spring­bok tour­ing squad ques­tioned, but also be­ing ex­pected to be de­moted to Sharks full­back come the 2018 Su­per Rugby sea­son.

Talk about throw­ing out the for­mer child prodigy with the bath­wa­ter.

Spring­bok coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee, who, hav­ing handed Bosch his first in­ter­na­tional cap in the Rugby Cham­pi­onship, named Bosch in his squad to tour Europe and promptly mounted a, ahem, stout de­fence for the young­ster.

“Ev­ery player will have short­com­ings,” he be­gan. “There are work-ons and we’ll make sure that we work on all as­pects of his game. It’s not that I want to come up for Cur­win but show me a fly­half who takes the skin off the op­po­si­tion [in de­fence].

“He’s a young guy, he’s 20 years old, give him time and he’ll de­velop and he’ll get the con­fi­dence. He’s a ta­lented young player also and when he kicks the ball there’s some­thing spe­cial about him, so in­stead of fo­cus­ing on his weak­ness I’d like him to fo­cus on his strengths.”

In all this con­jec­ture there has been nary a so­lu­tion prof­fered. En­ter Omar Mouneimne, the for­mer Sharks de­fence coach who now coaches at Worces­ter in the English Pre­mier­ship.

The in­tense Mouneimne is cred­ited with hav­ing im­proved the Sharks’ de­fence out of sight in 2015, thanks in part to some­thing he called “test match Tues­day”, where the play­ers took lumps out of one an­other in de­fence.

For starters Mouneimne agreed with Coet­zee: “Ev­ery­one has de­fen­sive de­fi­cien­cies. Some­times their sys­tem knowl­edge is low, their re­ac­tion is slow or a player makes 95% of his tack­les but all are neg­a­tive hits.

“Even the bravest guys in de­fence can be ter­ri­ble de­fend­ers if they are chal­lenged when it comes to their un­der­stand­ing of the de­fen­sive sys­tem.”

He went as far as say­ing some­thing most of us don’t con­sider when we think about rugby play­ers. “All play­ers suf­fer from doubt and fear in de­fence, the most im­por­tant thing you can give them is cer­tainty. You do that by giv­ing them two things: a sys­tem and how it works, good tech­nique and prepa­ra­tion.”

Look­ing at Bosch’s sit­u­a­tion, Mouneimne made a few sug­ges­tions he felt could help him: “I’d start by get­ting him grap­pling two days a week to help with his mo­bil­ity and ex­plo­sive­ness and shore up his con­fi­dence with­out col­li­sion.

“Next he would do col­li­sion train­ing to train his ner­vous sys­tem to take col­li­sions and get him used to the G-forces. Then I’d work on his sys­tem knowl­edge and put sys­tems in place to shore him up, like a flanker on his in­side and an in­side cen­tre out­side him and get them work­ing to­gether in de­fence.”

The last point speaks to Mouneimne’s be­lief that Bosch shouldn’t be moved from fly­half in de­fence as has been the case at the Sharks, where they have at­tempted to hide him on the wing when de­fend­ing dur­ing games.

“I’d keep him at 10, from set piece you can give him cover at cer­tain scrums or li­ne­outs,” he ex­plained. “If you hide him by mov­ing him to the wing there are big (po­si­tional) nu­ances he has to learn there, now you have to teach him the nu­ances of de­fend­ing on the wing.

“But the good news is every­body can be im­proved in de­fence.”

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