Goosen brings ‘Barrett’ X factor

Allister Coetzee has drawn similarities between the versatility and ability of Springbok returnee Johan Goosen and All Blacks star Beauden Barrett, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Nelspruit.

Goosen will start at fullback in this Saturday’s Test against Argentina, with the 24-year-old making a return to the Bok set-up after a near two-year absence.

During that time, Goosen has honed his all-round game in France, where this past season he featured at fullback, outside centre and flyhalf as Racing 92 went on to secure their first Top 14 title in 26 years.

Once widely heralded as the next big thing in South African rugby, Goosen has had to bide his time to receive another opportunity to add to his six Boks caps, and earlier this week, he admitted to media in Nelspruit that he had begun to consider that it may never come around.

However, Allister Coetzee has backed the former Cheetahs star to slot in at fullback for the Boks’ Rugby Championship opener, and reiterated at Thursday’s team announcement that he believed Goosen had all the attributes to make a success of his Bok comeback.

‘When people watch New Zealand rugby, they look at Beauden Barrett, who can slot in at fullback or flyhalf, and although he's not necessarily a specialist in one position, he’s proven what he can do. We have a similar type of player in Johan, who is really quick off the mark, he’s got unbelievable running skills and aerial skills that are second to none. He can also kick the ball a mile. So, I’m really happy to have him at 15 and to see what he can do there.’

Barrett has enjoyed a dream season for the Hurricanes, while he also featured prominently in the All Blacks’ June series against Wales, with the 25-year-old finally establishing himself as the first-choice flyhalf for the world champs.

Similarly, Goosen now has the opportunity to make the No 15 jersey his own, with his strong kicking game clearly one of the attributes that has earned him a Bok recall.

‘I think we saw in the inbound series against Ireland that we lacked a bit in terms of right-footed kickers,' Coetzee commented. 'But here we have that with Johan Goosen, Ruan Combrinck and Jesse Kriel, who will add that balance with two left-footed halfbacks [in Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies]. It’s good to have so many options now.’

Kriel is set to provide cover at fullback off the bench on Saturday, while Combrinck and Goosen will offer long-range goal-kicking options, with Elton Jantjies taking on the primary place-kicking duties.

Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

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Craig Lewis