Boks to put the boot in

Johan Goosen believes the side that wins the kicking battle is likely to emerge victorious in this Saturday’s Test between the Springboks and Argentina. CRAIG LEWIS reports from Nelspruit.

Goosen is set to start at fullback this weekend in one of five expected changes to the starting lineup, with the 24-year-old returning to the Bok side for the first time since 2014.

During Tuesday morning’s training session on the outer fields of the Mbombela Stadium, Goosen looked comfortable and confident as he slotted into the fullback berth as the Boks ran a few match practice drills against members of the Pumas side.

The distance he gets on his kicks was a noticeable feature, and this right-footed strength is sure to aid the Boks’ territorial game, and particularly their exit plays.

As someone who has played regularly at flyhalf, Goosen should also be able to take some of the kicking and decision-making pressure off Elton Jantjies, while he will provide better balance to the Boks’ kicking group as he offers a strong right boot in addition to that of Ruan Combrinck.

It’s a point that Allister Coetzee highlighted when discussing the need for the Boks to build on the plans that they put in place during the June series against Ireland.

‘We weren’t entirely pleased with our kicking game in general, it is a continuous work on. It’s a combination of execution, the plan and then personnel. In the first Test, we had four left-footed kickers, and the Irish exploited that very well and put us under exit pressure. But we’ve looked at that to ensure our plan, our personnel, and then the execution is there. We’ve got that balance now with right and left footed kickers.’

By all accounts, Goosen has considerably grown his game over the last couple of years in France, where he has played alongside the likes of All Blacks great Dan Carter at Racing 92.

When Goosen left South Africa in 2014, he was primarily regarded as a flyhalf, but he has also seamlessly slotted in at fullback and outside centre at Racing.

After Tuesday’s training session in Nelspruit, Goosen reiterated that he was quite happy to have this versatility.

‘It’s just a number on your back at the end of the day, I’m comfortable at 10, 13 or 15. I feel like whether I play at flyhalf or fullback, it’s similar in terms of the kicking side of the game. So wherever I play I’d like to make it my position. The competition in the squad is good and so I just want to take whatever chance comes my way.’

In the first Test of a new season, there’s little doubt that the Boks are likely to enforce a strong kicking game on Saturday, and Goosen said there could be no doubting the significance of accurately executing those plans on Saturday.

‘I think Test rugby is about territory and whoever wins the kicking battle is likely to win the Test match.’

Photo: Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix

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Craig Lewis