Vodacom Bulls coach Jake White says the timing is right to bring Johan Goosen back to complete ‘unfinished business with South African rugby’.
On Friday the Bulls officially announced the ‘worst kept secret’ that Goosen would be heading to Pretoria in July from French club Montpellier.
It’s a return to South African rugby for Goosen that will certainly be watched with keen interest. As a product of the Grey College conveyer belt of Test-quality players, the versatile backline star would go on to make his Springbok debut at the age of 20 when he came off the bench to face Australia in 2012.
Yet, in the years to come, Goosen’s once bright-light career prospects would be dimmed by ill-fated decisions, primarily related to both joining French giants Racing 92 and then controversially quitting his contract under the guise of retiring to work on a farm in Bloemfontein.
Eventually, Goosen came out of retirement to join Montpellier as he looked to make the most of a ‘second chance’ after admitting he had matured as both a player and person after years of ups and downs on and off the field.
At the Bulls, Goosen – who is still only 28 years old – will be a strong contender for the No 10 jersey, but could just as easily slot in at fullback or centre.
In the upcoming SA Rugby magazine, which will soon be on sale, White explained the reasoning behind Goosen’s recruitment.
‘Let me say first off, he’s an unbelievable talent. I saw him as a schoolboy and knew straight away he would play for South Africa. But club issues, injuries and timings haven’t worked out. I blame some of the people around him down the years. There was bad advice, and he’s carried the can.
‘When I heard he quit, I didn’t believe it. In his time, he could have conceivably played two World Cups – 2019 and 2023 – but it never worked out, in 2019 at least. It’s the right time for us to take him. He’s banged his head enough, but he’s also grown up a lot. He’s married, got kids, plus he’s got unfinished business with South African rugby.’
All signs suggest Goosen will have his work cut out for him when he arrives at the Bulls, with White renowned for his no-nonsense approach in terms of setting out expectations.
‘I won’t play games with him and it won’t be a holiday,’ adds White. ‘I want to turn him into a Bok again … that’s my commitment.’
Ed’s note: Make sure you get your hands on the upcoming issue of SA Rugby magazine to read this full feature