Rosko Specman enjoying the journey but Sevens is calling next season
He may be enjoying the fifteens journey, but a move back to Sevens next season is a strong possibility for Rosko Specman. After playing for six domestic unions in South Africa, the Blitzboks and also achieving a Springbok cap, the wily stepper still has gas in his tank.
Few rugby players are as well travelled as Rosko Specman. At 34 years old, he’s played for every top union in South Africa, including the Sharks (2010 – 2012), Pumas (2013 – 15), Cheetahs (2016 – 17) and (2020 – 2022), Bulls (2019 – 20), the Stormers (on loan in 2021), and currently plays for Griquas.
The flying winger also has a solitary Springbok cap to his name, playing against Georgia in 2o21.
And while all that may look like an illustrious career, there is a legendary Springbok Sevens journey wedged in between — he has won a bronze medal at Rugby World Cup Sevens (2018) and the Olympic Games (2016).
A path the player has hinted at returning to. “I don’t know where I’m going next, the Springbok Sevens made me an offer, but I must still decide if I want to go back,” Specman said.
His season ended last week when the Griquas were felled 27-17 to the Pumas in what was essentially a Currie Cup quarterfinal.
The Griquas’ next match is March 2024 when the Currie Cup restarts, while the Springbok Sevens have crunch Olympic qualifiers to play before Paris Olympics 2024.
It’s no surprise that the Blitzboks reached out to Specman, the Springbok Sevens team finished last season in seventh place on the World Series log, subsequently failing to qualify directly for next year’s Olympic Games.
Reset to enjoy rugby
After initially quitting international Sevens – where he played 150 matches and scored 76 tries between 2014 and 2018 – to focus on wearing the green and gold in the fifteens jersey, Specman has now resorted to simply enjoying rugby, and giving back where he can.
“For me, it is always good to come to Griquas and just help the youngsters coming through and give them my knowledge of the game,” he said.
“It’s always nice for me also to reset myself, especially when you come from bigger unions – playing at a higher level – to come back here to start all over again.
“That was the challenge for me, to start at zero again and build myself up… Obviously injuries come through the season and that’s something you must adapt to.
“Sometimes it’s not about money, but to give back and enjoy your rugby again… and I felt I enjoyed playing rugby again.
“There’s no pressure. You just go out there and enjoy the game, win or lose. The coach and the people of Kimberley back you, they’re behind you.”
Fewer than 200,000 people live in the quaint city of Kimberley, many showing up weekly to fill the 11,000-capacity Windhoek Draught Park specially to watch Specman.
“The vibe that the guys bring every week and the coaches also, that was something special for me. To come here to Griquas and just start all over again and just feel like I can add value to the youngsters and even the people around in Kimberley. When they see me in the streets, we often have a talk.”
Pillaging of players
The Griquas and Pumas have been two of the better teams across the last two seasons of Currie Cup rugby – competing in the final last year, before the Pumas lifted their maiden trophy.
But pillaging of players every year by other local unions – who compete in Europe – makes being consistently competitive a massive challenge.
“I think the whole squad and management team are very disappointed [at not making the semi-finals] because we worked so hard. It was just small margins, we lost focus and then that’s where we lost the game,” said Specman about last weekend’s defeat.
“The bigger unions have more money, but smaller unions such as the Griquas and Pumas try to keep their players. But at the end of the day, the players also want to play at a higher level like the URC [United Rugby Championship] and become Springboks. But the small unions, we always fight.”
Whatever the next step is for springy Specman, whether it’s another season in the Currie Cup with Griquas, or off to jet around the world with the Blitzboks, he’ll go with that trademark smile on his face and the determination of knowing that he’s done it before.
“You can’t think that you’re bigger than this game because this game changes every day, every week,” he said.
“You see how the top guys are when they’re under pressure, or they think they’re bigger than this game. Then when something happens, they must start all over again.
“I started at the bottom and had to work myself up to the top, so I’m not scared to start again.” DM