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Friday, January 27, 2023

Bulls’ Johan Goosen needs a commanding performance to get back into the Springbok flyhalf race

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Cape Town – The last time the Bulls faced Cardiff in the United Rugby Championship (URC), it was a night to forget for flyhalf Johan Goosen.

With the visitors encountering the blue 4G pitch at Cardiff Arms Park for the first time, Goosen tried to change direction but went down in a heap.

While the Bulls hit back from 16-3 down at one stage to pull off a remarkable 29-19 victory – with Chris Smith producing a solid display as a replacement – Goosen went off and had a scan, and the knee injury was the serious ACL one that ruled him out for about 11 months.

To say he hasn’t been the same player since would be a real understatement.

Goosen made his comeback in the No 15 jersey for the Bulls against Edinburgh in late September, and was unconvincing.

Coach Jake White picked him at flyhalf the following week against Connacht, where he was more involved and slotted four conversions in a 28-14 win at Loftus Versfeld, although he also received a yellow card.

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Then the 30-year-old was left out of the clash against Glasgow in Scotland due to the 4G pitch at Scotstoun Stadium, with White not wanting to expose him to that kind of surface again.

Goosen was back in the No 10 jersey against Munster in Limerick after that, but he battled on the day and picked up a head knock that kept him off the field for the second half.

All of a sudden, he was picked for a Springbok training camp, and White said “I feel sorry for him” as he felt Goosen was not ready for Test rugby yet.

At least the Springbok coaches realised that following another lacklustre display at fullback against the Sharks, and Goosen was instead picked for the South Africa ‘A’ side for November tour games against Munster and Bristol.

He was again well short of his best at No 10 against Munster in Cork, where he often lined up too deep in attack, and then came on as a fullback replacement early in the second half against Bristol before joining the Bok squad in London for the England Test, where he didn’t feature.

Now he is back training in Pretoria ahead of Saturday’s URC showdown with Cardiff at Loftus (8pm kick-off), and it is the ideal time for Goosen to remind Bok coach Jacques Nienaber why he should still be in the national reckoning.

From being identified as the third-choice Springbok flyhalf behind Handre Pollard and Elton Jantjies earlier this year, Goosen is now well back in the queue.

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Damian Willemse is the firstchoice pivot, and he is backed up by Manie Libbok.

Another pivot in the SA mix is Stormers youngster Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu – and that is before you think of Pollard and Jantjies making their comebacks over the next few months.

So, Goosen will hope to get an opportunity to make amends against Cardiff this time around, having been through a turbulent time since his last clash against the Welsh outfit.

There is no doubt that he has the talent and class to play Test rugby again, but the only way to prove that is by doing it on the pitch.

At least he won’t have to worry about the playing surface, as Loftus will be in prime condition.

But Cardiff are no pushovers, as they showed in blanking the Sharks 35-0 in Durban last Sunday, which resulted in coach Sean Everitt being fired. The Sharks host the Ospreys on Friday evening.

@AshfakMohamed

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