Don’t kill a potentially golden Goose

RYAN VREDE writes Johan Goosen is the brightest Test flyhalf prospect to emerge since Henry Honiball but he is still raw and must be judged accordingly.

I don’t share the same certainty about Johan Goosen that many others seem to. I simply haven’t seen enough of him at Test level to make such an absolute judgement. I have, however, been impressed with his cameos against Australia and New Zealand in the last fortnight and sense that he is a special player.

I wrote last week that I didn’t agree with Meyer’s faith in Morne Steyn, faith later proven to be misplaced as Steyn capitulated under the pressure to save his Test career in Dunedin. Yet I understood Meyer’s reservations about starting Goosen off the back of a lengthy injury and against the world champions in their back yard.

Now there can be no reason offered for Steyn’s retention that will satisfy sufficiently. Goosen must start in the remaining fixtures.

As South Africans our desperation to see a flyhalf that inspires has peaked. Honiball set an imposing standard, particularly during the Springboks’ period of dominance in the late 1990s. A punishing defender and an attacker with a broad repertoire, Honiball has for years been the benchmark for South African 10s. But we’ve expected a ready-made Honiball, this when the man was himself refined in the Test cauldron. Time was that refiner and time will be so for Goosen.

We must resist the poisonous habit of dismissing the aptitude of our best young talent if they struggle in their formative period. Test rugby is result-driven, of course, but the potential of some players demands our patience, with a view to a long term gain from them. Goosen is undoubtedly one such player.

He may well make the transition from Super Rugby to Tests with the ease that, say, Frans Steyn did. His temperament appears to be excellent, which is vital to success, while he has good all-round technique and an X-factor.

But he may not enjoy as comfortable a start as Steyn did. Furthermore, his success is not entirely in his control (much depends on the platform he is serviced with). He may struggle to meet the unique demands of the game and may yet be adversely affected by the pressure and expectation associated with steering the Springboks’ ship.

If we agree with the premise that Goosen shows immense promise, then it is important that we temper our expectations of him. I’m not suggesting that we tolerate mediocrity, only that we show an appreciation for the growing pains that accompany his elevation into the most high pressure position in the game.

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