Bulls head coach Jake White has heaped praise on Johan Goosen, while once again reiterating his belief that the flyhalf has all the talent to earn a recall to the Springboks in the future.
Goosen, who joined the Bulls from French club Montpellier, was making his first appearance for his new team as they took on a South Africa A team that was a mix between senior Springboks and players looking to put their hands up for selection for the upcoming Lions series.
In the build-up to the match, White said he was “blown away” by Goosen’s talent, adding that he was certain that he wasn’t cursing the flyhalf by speaking so highly of him before his first game.
As it happened, the 28-year-old produced a mature performance as the Bulls claimed a narrow victory over the SA A team, kicking well out of hand and playing an influential role in both of their tries.
“I said in that press conference that he is an unbelievable rugby player,” White said after the match. “I get so scared because I don’t want him to leave us, but my job is to produce Springboks and to get guys in the national setup.
“You saw today. It’s the first time he has played with this group of players, first time he has played with those nines. When you are the general and you get a new nine to play alongside you and another [in the second half], outside backs you have never played with before, and he still looks as though he knows what’s going on.
“He made one or two mistakes, which I suppose is normal. To have him, he breaks the line, he’s quick, kicks well, defends really bravely. I was scared to give him the [commentator’s] curse because I didn’t really want him to try and do everything on his own. I told all the players, this is not for you to prove a point. I thought he was outstanding.
“I always say when you have a really good 10 – and he proved it today – you can play rugby. That’s why we were so lucky that we could vary our game. It wasn’t the same Bulls mauling and scrumming. It was a little bit of moving around and doing things a little bit differently.”
On the eve of the game, White had said he had been blown away by what he had seen from Goosen.
“Jeez, this guy is a phenomenal rugby player. In the small space of time he’s come in here… I know I wax lyrical about a lot of players – the Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Frans Steyns and Schalk Burgers that I’ve coached,” White started.
“There’s nothing he can’t do. He’s got pace, he’s got skill, he passes. He goes flat to the line, he’s brave. I will be very, very surprised if he doesn’t play for South Africa again. I’m incredibly surprised that he hasn’t played 50 Test matches for South Africa …
“In the long run, I’ve got no doubt that he is the real deal. I’ve seen him, I’ve interacted with him. He could play 10, 12, 13, 14, 15 – he could do it as well as any player I’ve got in my team.”
Meanwhile, although Springbok fans might be worried about what Saturday’s result means for the team’s chances in the upcoming Test series against the British & Irish Lions, White downplayed it’s importance, saying the result would have no indicator of what happens in the Lions series.
“I think you have to place it into context. I don’t think this performance, just like with the British & Irish Lions losing to SA A. The Test series is very important.
“I just spoke to Morne Steyn. He came to the change room and said this is what they needed. They needed a team to front up physically and to play a certain way. I thought we did those two things really well. We played a different style to what we usually play in the Currie Cup. We tried a couple of new things that they obviously wouldn’t have seen.
“I thought our young forwards really fronted up nicely. I don’t think this has any indicator of what the Test series will be like next week.”
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