If Springbok coach Peter de Villiers still has any notion of picking Earl Rose for the series against the British and Irish Lions, he certainly couldn’t have watched the Lions Super 14 match against the Highlanders, won 27-22 by the home side in Johannesburg on Friday.
Rugby 365 reports that Rose, the surprise selection for the year-end tour to the United Kingdom last year – where he didn’t get a chance to play – was shocking in his skills and execution, and was moved to the right wing shortly after the first quarter in a swap with Louis Ludik.
Ironically Ludik, who has been one of the two best fullbacks in South Africa this season, should have been in the No.15 jersey from the outset.
In a match which was obviously a clash between two of the bottom sides with errors abounding – especially in the first half – the Lions went into the lead in the fifth minute with a Michael Killian try.
Enter Rose, who was roundly booed by the rather sparse home crowd after his third major error.
From a wonderful Lions move that just about went the length of the field, the Highlanders returned a deep kick from another botched pass by the home side. Rose opted for a quick throw to collect himself. He let the ball bounce and then found the defence on him. He was caught when he tried to step his way around a defender and Alando Soakai was on hand to score.
The first Rose error seemed to put a spring in the Highlanders’ collective step, and he cost his side another four times in the next seven minutes with two knocks and also provided the visitors with an attacking line-out ball.
In the 29th minute he was again caught with the ball, but this time there was some help on hand.
However, from the ensuing line-out the Highlanders attacked and Ben Smith went over. With Israel Dagg converting this try as well as that of Jimmy Cowan’s in the 40th minute, the Highlanders went in to the break a comfortable 19-5 ahead.
Just after the restart, with the Lions looking threatening, a Rose pass was intercepted – and six minutes later he lost the ball from a promising move.
Then, in the 68th minute, Rose botched a man-over Lions attack which put the Highlanders back on attack.
It simply wasn’t his night against a very average side, and a timely warning for De Villiers that Rose is not ready for the big time.
It was a similar story last year, in the Currie Cup competition, when he produced some outstanding performances against minnows like Griquas, Boland and Falcons.
However, once his team played against top-flight sides like the Sharks, Blue Bulls and Cheetahs, his game went south and he inevitably made far too many costly errors under pressure.
Yet, the Bok coach, De Villiers, named him in the year-end touring squad and while he did not play, Rose had become a Springbok.
The Bok mentor has gone on record as saying Rose has that ‘X-Factor’, but on Friday night he again showed how ‘valuable’ that X-Factor is to the opposition when the pressure is on in games at a higher level.
Ironically it was Rose who scored the Lions’ winning try, when he was at the end of a sweeping move when Killian had been very prominent in a fierce counter attack.
While there is no doubt that Rose has some talent, it appears he still has not mastered the art of stepping up in games above the average Currie Cup match.
He certainly has not been anything but ordinary in the Super 14 this year and a question mark will remain about his Bok credentials.Tweet