Johan Goosen needs to be backed consistently if the Springboks are to improve their attack and kicking game in the years to come, writes JON CARDINELLI.
On Monday evening, Goosen was named the Top 14 Player of the Year by his peers. Goosen featured at flyhalf, fullback, and centre over the course of the 2015-16 season. He slotted some important goals for his club, and was largely responsible for Racing 92's win in the Top 14 final.
When Springbok coach Allister Coetzee announced his squad ahead of the Rugby Championship, he confirmed that Goosen had been brought back into the mix for a specific purpose. Coetzee believed that Goosen had the attacking and kicking strengths to boost the Boks. In short, Coetzee was convinced that the Boks needed a match-winner of Goosen's quality.
Goosen went on to start in the first four Tests of South Africa's campaign. He scored a crucial try in the dying stages of the match against Argentina in Nelspruit, a try that helped the Boks claim a late win. He made 226m with ball in hand over the four matches, more than any other Bok player.
However, the Boks went on to lose three of those four Tests. Coetzee decided to drop Goosen for the final two games against Australia and New Zealand. The Bok coach argued that Pat Lambie, who had not started a Test at fullback since 2013 and was coming back from a concussion-related injury, was a safer bet in the No 15 position.
The Boks managed to beat Australia 18-10 at Loftus Versfeld. Subsequently, the Boks sustained their worst-ever defeat on home soil when they went down 57-15 at Kings Park. Lambie was largely ineffective in both matches.
Did Goosen deserve the chop? The question has relevance now that he is being celebrated as one of European rugby's top players. Surely Coetzee and the Boks have to find room for him in the match 23 when they tackle England, Italy and Wales this November.
But should he start at No 10 or 15? Back in 2012, Goosen was backed to start at flyhalf against the All Blacks by then Bok coach Heyneke Meyer. Injuries prevented him from getting an extended run over the next three years.
When he was recallled to the Bok side earlier this year, Coetzee said that fullback was where he was best suited. However, in a recent interview with SA Rugby magazine, Bok legends André Joubert and Breyton Paulse said that Goosen must eventually move back to flyhalf.
Many South African rugby fans feel the same way. In the lead-up to the Test against Australia in Brisbane last month, SARugbymag.co.za readers were asked who should start at No 10 for the Boks. As many as 64% voted for Goosen. Elton Jantjies received 20% of the votes, and Morné Steyn 16% (Lambie was unavailable due to injury at the time and Handré Pollard has been ruled out for the entire 2016 season).
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