JOHANNESBURG – Rosko Specman knows how to spot a gap, beat a defender, and toe it to the tryline … he also knows how to make an entrance.
“What’s up, babies? It’s your boy, Specmagic,” he announced gleefully as he sat down in the hot-seat on Thursday to discuss his recent call-up to the Springboks, his experience so far with the national team in Bloemfontein, and the tough decisions he needed to make regarding his career.
The 32-year-old wing is one of eight uncapped players selected by Bok coach Jacques Nienaber in preparation for the upcoming Georgia and British & Irish Lions tours, and his resolve to commit to the 15-man game reached its nadir a fortnight ago when his name was read out along with 45 others to join the squad.
A veteran of 150 Sevens matches, and an Olympic-medal winner to boot, the choice to switch was a difficult one, but has already repaid itself.
“It was a tough one for me to choose,” Specman admitted.
“But when me and coach Neil (Powell, coach of the Blitzboks) had the conversation he said: ‘Listen here, Rosko, if the opportunity comes your way, you have played the Olympics before … if it was up to me I would give you the freedom to go into the camp, do your best and give your everything’.
“At the end of the day, I don’t want to be that guy that said I could have gone to the Olympics and maybe won gold, or I could have gone to the Boks and won the trophy that side also. I told myself: ‘Listen here, Rosko, it’s once in a lifetime. It comes only every 12 years, so go maar for the bigger one’.
“I’m not saying the Olympics is not a big one, but I have played in the Olympics, and I haven’t played for the Springboks before.”
The journey from Sevens to XVs, from 2017 to the present, to being a shoe-in at the Blitzboks to making the Bok squad, has not been without issue. Specman was unceremoniously dumped by the Bulls earlier this year, and found himself a journeyman, stopping first at the Cheetahs before being loaned out to the Stormers. That experience, however, has reinvigorated the wing, and to his mind, made him a stronger, better player.
Said Specman: “I think sometimes when one door closes, another one opens.
“For me,” he continued, “the way that I left the Bulls, it wasn’t on my terms but I have made peace with it. It was also a turning point in terms of my career; where I could take a look at myself, and ask myself: ‘Maybe it’s not a problem with the coach, or maybe I have a problem with the coach, maybe it is me. Maybe I am not doing things that the coach that is now at the Bulls wants’. That is where I looked deep into myself, and said: ‘Rosko, maybe you are the problem’.
“Now looking back at it, it was something good also, to just give you that switch to show you; listen here, you can score a hat-trick in one game and everyone is happy, then the next moment you are not there anymore.
“So, it was also a turning point and also telling me, ‘now you must work hard once again’.”
Meanwhile, as explained by Bok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick, several players plying their trade in Europe have not yet joined the training camp. “If you are looking at a squad of 46, we probably have a squad of about 30 players that we are working with at the moment, which is a good thing for us,” said Stick.