Former Springbok fullback Johan Goosen has admitted that the manner in which he backed out of his contract with Racing 92 was a ‘mistake’.
Goosen controversially got out of his reported €500,000 per season contract with Racing, which was set to end in 2020, by ‘retiring’ from the game in December 2016 and accepting a job as a commercial director at a saddle-horse stud farm in Bloemfontein.
It was a decision that received a considerable backlash, but it didn’t stop the 25-year-old from then officially coming out of retirement earlier this year when it was revealed that he would be joining French club Montpellier. He also turned out for the Cheetahs in the Pro14 in order to get some much-needed game time.
In an interview with French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique, Goosen opens up about the controversial events that saw him face the ire of Racing 92.
‘To be clear, I did not feel good in Paris. I am South African, I need space and, in the suburbs of Paris, the buildings are so close to each other that I felt like I was choking. I had the uncomfortable feeling of living in a box. The worst part is that my son was also very unhappy.
‘Because I was very unhappy off the pitch, I could not have stayed for five more years… Money has nothing to do with it. I wanted another life, the sun, the space and the nature. I’ll have all this in Montpellier.’
Goosen said he threw himself into a normal work routine back in Bloemfontein, but struggled with the adjustment, while also experiencing regrets over the way things had panned out on the rugby front.
‘It was madness. I made a mistake. But that’s life. Paradoxically, I have also grown a lot over the past two years. I emptied my head and allowed my body time to recover… I went through bad times. I was very sad. I thought all of this would never end. Sometimes I said to myself: “Maybe I should go back to Racing?” And at other times, I was persuaded that going back would not do me any good. In fact, I was lost… If a player is in my situation, I would say to him: ”Do not do it, you will regret it. The price to pay is too heavy.”.
Goosen said he knew to expect a hostile reaction upon his return to playing in France, but that he hoped to win people over with his performances on the field.
‘I’m going to be whistled, booed, insulted. But I do not care. I prepared myself for it… I know that everyone thinks that I am a bad guy, and that I do not deserve the second chance that has been offered to me. Nevertheless, I hope that one day I will be forgiven and that in Montpellier, my rugby will make people happy.’