Johan Goosen and Jake White. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)
- Johan Goosen’s selection at full-back for the Bulls doesn’t mean he can’t get into the groove, playing as a straight forward, where the Springboks prefer to see him.
- Instead, Bulls coach Jake White hopes to “safeguard” him physically in his first game in 11 months, giving him the freedom to determine his involvement as a playmaker.
- White is also keen to reward the humble Chris Smith for his excellent URC campaign last season as the top pick.
Just because he won’t be donning the favored number 10 shirt on the back doesn’t mean the Springbok management shouldn’t have spectators interested when Johan Goossen makes his long-awaited return to the Bulls on Saturday.
After nearly 11 months out with a knee injury, the 30-year-old defender is in his franchise’s URC meeting with Edinburgh at Loftus Versfeld despite the national hierarchy probably wanting to see him in the limelight.
Goosen has been named third-choice for the Boks ahead of next year’s World Cup and given the current depth crisis in the position, Goosen is certain to feature in some capacity for South Africa’s tour of Europe later in the year.
However, Jake White, the Bulls’ director of rugby, believes he will give one of his prized assets enough freedom to showcase his skills as a 10-year-old without overwhelming him in terms of his match fitness.
“It gives us a chance to get Johan into the game without having to control the situation from the first minute, let him just feel himself in the game again because he won’t last 80 minutes. He’s just come back after a long layoff,” said the former World Cup-winning Bok coach.
“I’m sure the Boks would have preferred to see him at 10. He is in the mix. But we are conservative. I probably could have squeezed him in last week, but we just wanted to find the right time for him to come back.
“The Boxers, if you read between the lines, have shown that they prefer guys who have been in the system for a long time, which explains why France will start this weekend.
“I’m not taking anything away from someone else who has played well in the No.10 shirt over the last year. They need an experienced guy. It would be hard for a guy like Johan to break into the lineup with just one week of training [if we picked him to play last week against the Lions].”
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If anything, moving Goosen to the last line of defense gives him more time on the ball to dictate things.
“One of the things he can do is use his feet and get out of position. He’s a good kicker as a 10 so he’s got the boots to get us out of our 22. I want him involved as many times as he wants, wherever he wants. There’s no specific instructions, he just has to do his part in certain plays, but that’s about it,” White said.
“My main goal is to just get him through this game and let him just be confident. He’s going to be in the line of fire when he’s going to start running things from the beginning.
“I know him well enough to know that Johan is not going to try to push himself into the No.10 position all the time. [By picking him at 15] he can control how he wants to participate in the game. It’s exciting. The more he gets as the starting receiver, the more comfortable he will be over the next few weeks.
“He wants to play 10 and the national coaches want that, but he also understands the process. It will happen.”
15 Johan Goosen, 14 Cornel Hendricks, 13 Lionel Mapo, 12 David Creel, 11 Stravina Jacobs, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Zach Burger, 8 Elri Louw, 7 Ruan Vermaak, 6 Marcel Coetzee (Captain), 5 Ruan Norge, 4 Walt Steenkamp , 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johann Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenkamp
Subs: 16 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Francois Klopper, 19 Janka Swanepoel, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Ambrose Papier, 22 Morne Steyn, 23 Stedman Hans
15 Henry Imelman, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 James Lang, 11 Damien Hoyland, 10 Blair Kinghorn, 9 Henry Pirgas, 8 William Mata, 7 Luke Crosby, 6 Jamie Ritchie (co-captain), 5 Grant Gilchrist (co -Captain), 4 Sam Skinner, 3 WP Nell, 2 Dave Cherry, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Subs: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Boan Venter, 18 Luan de Bruyne, 19 Marshall Sykes, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Jako van der Walt, 23 Chris Dean
White also makes no secret of his desire to reward the wily Chris Smith for his effective work at flyhalf over the past year.
“You also want the players to feel cared for,” the Bulls coach said.
“Chris has done nothing wrong. I don’t want him to feel immediately displaced when Johan comes back. Hope and ambition is a big thing for a player. And I’m sure Chris wants to play with Johan.”
Starts on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.