Judging by his debut for the Bulls, a great sleeper talent in South African rugby may have awoken in the form of flyhalf Johan Goosen.
The 28-year-old has already played 13 times for the Springboks, but the last of those appearances was nearly five years ago. Goosen has been out-of-sight, out-of-mind in France, apart from when he made headlines for all the wrong reasons by getting out of his contract with Racing 92 by retiring from the game, only to pop up less than two years later for Montpellier on an even bigger contract.
But his first game back for the Bulls last weekend was an unqualified success as his brilliance in the final quarter carried them to a shock win over the Springbok-laden SA A team.
“I took a couple of decisions that I regret, but I’m not looking back, I’m looking forward,” Goosen said on Tuesday.
“I’m just trying to play better and better, if I can play at my best then maybe returning to the Springboks would be the cherry on top. But it was a massive honour to start at flyhalf for the Bulls and the match was one of the highlights of my career, I was very happy.
“For a franchise team, it was a massive opportunity to see where we stand. If we are going to be honest, the whole land expected us to lose by 30-40 points because SA A had a very good pack. But the team worked so hard, in the end it was a relief and it was lekker to win and bring the group even more together as a team.
“I still feel I have something to offer for the Bulls.”
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Goosen admitted that being over-emotional at times had given him something of a brittle temperament, but there is now an element of steeliness to him and he certainly showed his mettle in Cape Town. It stems from when he moved to France as a 22-year-old and joined Racing 92 in Paris. He was not alone there – All Blacks legend Dan Carter and Irish great Jonathan Sexton were there too and they provided precious guidance.
“I had always been a flyhalf but when I played in France I was moved to outside centre and fullback because Dan Carter was there. It was a no-brainer and I learnt a lot from him,” Goosen said.
“As a youngster at Racing, Jonny Sexton was there too for my first year and they are both top-class flyhalves that I could learn from. I asked a lot of questions and they were both very helpful.
“I can sometimes be a bit emotional so I asked Dan how he looks so calm and collected at pressure kicks. He said he just follows his processes, he just tries to stand back and take the emotion out of it. He’s not a very emotional person anyway.
“And then it was difficult at Montpellier because they just throw you the ball and expect you to play. You can sign the best players but you still need a coach to steer you in the right direction.”