Johan Goosen’s pending move to the Vodacom Bulls will boost the Currie Cup champions in both depth and experience in their backline, writes DYLAN JACK.
SARugbymag.co.za has reliably learned that Goosen has agreed to terms to join the Bulls, and just final details need to be ironed out to determine when he might be released from French club Montpellier
It is understandable that Bulls fans would be slightly wary about their side signing a player with Goosen’s history, particularly given his ill-fated decisions related to joining French giants Racing 92.
Goosen would controversially quit his contract under the guise of retiring to work on a farm in Bloemfontein, a decision which led to lawsuits, recrimination and regrets.
However, this should not be used to wholly colour his character, as Goosen was never happy in Paris, something he opened up about in 2018.
‘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,’ he said at the time. ‘I had the uncomfortable feeling of living in a box. The worst part is that my son was also very unhappy.’
As a player, Goosen still has genuine star quality and plenty of northern-hemisphere experience that will only serve to benefit the Bulls as head coach Jake White continues to prepare the side to play in the Rainbow Cup and PRO16.
The obvious thought is that Goosen will be considered first as a flyhalf, with Morne Steyn and Chris Smith the other two options in the Bulls squad. Both Steyn and Smith were in good form in the Currie Cup, but Goosen is almost a perfect balance between the two when it comes to ability, age and experience.
Johan Goosen pasa mirando al tendido y la pelota acaba en manos de alguien a quien se le caen los ensayos de los bolsillos: Timoci Nagusa.pic.twitter.com/7rfrVktne0
— Javier Señarís Senra (@RutgerBlume) January 13, 2019
However, Goosen could also easily lay claim to the No 15 jersey, considering that Gio Aplon’s future is not yet clear as he is still recovering from a long-term injury. Regardless, Aplon will be 39 in October and while David Kriel has done very well at fullback in his first season with the Bulls, he is at the other end of the spectrum in that regard.
At fullback, Goosen’s long-range kicking game can be well utilised, as can his ability to step into the backline as a second playmaker, in a similar way to how Willie le Roux dovetails with Handre Pollard for the Springboks.
Then there is another interesting school of thought which suggests the Goosen could be played in midfield. He has been played at outside centre for both Racing 92 and Montpellier and is fairly familiar with the position. His pace and passing ability would certainly make him ideal for the role.
While Cornal Hendricks has cemented his place at inside centre, Stedman Gans’ return to the Blitzboks would open up a space at outside centre.
— Jared Wright (@jaredwright17) February 17, 2020
Wherever he plays, Goosen would bring new ideas and fresh ingenuity to the Bulls backline. Plus, his goal-kicking ability would help ease the pressure on the starting flyhalf – be that Steyn or Smith – in the same way that Tiaan Swanepoel and Elton Jantjies have shared the responsibility at the Lions.
As for Goosen, this is his opportunity at redemption. It’s a chance to prove to South Africans that his temperament does match his immense talent. At 28 years old, Goosen is still in his prime and still has plenty to offer a growing Bulls team.
Photo: Alexandre Dimou/Icon Sport via Getty Images