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Bulls coach: Weight of expectation probably the heaviest thing on Johan Goosen

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Cape Town — When Johan Goosen was ruled out for six weeks with a shoulder problem, it was just the latest body blow since his return to South African to join the Bulls.

The 30-year-old flyhalf had made his return to action from a serious knee injury last September, and was included in the SA ‘A’ squad for their two-match November Euro tour.

Then in February, he needed surgery on an AC joint in his shoulder …

Clearly, the former Cheetahs star just needs something to go his way again, and that journey starts Friday when he lines up at No 10 for the Blue Bulls in their Currie Cup clash against the Griffons in Welkom (3pm kick-off).

Bulls coach Edgar Marutlulle pleaded for patience with Goosen after announcing his team, which also sees experienced loose forward Nizaam Carr return from a hamstring niggle.

“When some people call you a prodigy in sport — people have earmarked him from the age of 16, 17. There are always those expectations, and the weight of performance, where he showed it a couple of times and was the (French) Top 14 Player of the Year,” Marutlulle said.

“Him coming back to South Africa was him coming to settle (down), and the weight of expectation is probably the heaviest thing on Johan, in terms of what he’s done in the past and what he’s always been earmarked to do — and also with Springbok selection.

“For this particular group and new coaching staff, our uniqueness to Johan’s case is our ability to give him freshness, a new voice, a new place for him to relax. Just to be himself, because he knows he is not necessarily on the penultimate stage of URC or EPCR.

“He is playing Currie Cup, and we have to help him recover and get him to top match fitness, and also for him to help us win the game this weekend.

“For any coach in the world, if you are offered Johan Goosen for his first game back, you’d take him in a blink of an eye.

“We will take it as it comes. I haven’t thought about easing him in whatsoever. If we can get an 80-minute performance from him, then well done. If not, we’ve also got Chris Barend Smit, who had a couple of really good moments last weekend. He can give us a contrasting style to Goose off the bench later in the game.”

The Bulls will hope to end a three-match losing streak at the Griffons Rugby Stadium, having come off a 32-7 defeat to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last week.

Marutlulle has kept most of that team intact, with the other change also coming in the loose trio, where Phumzile Maqondwana is promoted from the bench to the No 6 jersey.

“It’s the first time in the campaign that we have been able to put almost the same team together for two weekends in a row. That’s always the challenge for a franchise team in the Currie Cup: to get some sort of consistency in selection and match performance,” Marutlulle said.

“We’re hoping that cohesion and relationships are starting to form, as well as trying to build on last week’s performance.”

Blue Bulls starting XV: 15 Franco Knoetze, 14 Quewin Nortjé, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Lionel Mapoe, 11 Kabelo Mokoena, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Keagan Johannes; 8 Muller Uys, 7 Nizaam Carr, 6 Phumzile Maqondwana, 5 Reinhardt Ludwig, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Robert Hunt, 2 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 1 Lizo Gqoboka (capt) Replacements: 16 Joe van Zyl, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Sebastian Lombard, 19 JP Alberts, 20 Mihlali Mosi, 21 Bernard van der Linde, 22 Chris Barend Smit, 23 Adriaan Joubert.

@ashfakmohamed

IOL Sport

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