Johan Goosen won’t be given licence to thrill but he will be encouraged to express himself when the opportunities present themselves at Loftus, says Jean de Villiers.
The message from the Springbok management and senior players has been clear this week, Goosen – installed at flyhalf after two impressive attacking performances off the wood – will have to adapt to the team’s approach, not have it shaped around him.
There has certainly been a directive to him to play the naturally attacking game that has brought him into the national consciousness. But no free reign will be extended to him. Instead the coaches and some experienced players have worked on his spacial awareness and decision making under pressure in a bid to equip him with the processing skills to take the right option in any given situation.
De Villiers said he would have freedom within a pre-determined framework.
‘Johan brings a lot of youthful enthusiasm to the game. But nothing changes for us from a game plan point of view. Yes, if there is opportunity to go wide, into space, we’ll do that. That’s always been the case with this team,’ he said.
Some young players need constant assurance of their value, others not, the latter requiring only to be encouraged to express themselves. Asked where Goosen stood, De Villier simply said: ‘He has a good head on his shoulders. Mentally he is up for it.’
He added: ‘I spoke to him early in the week and told him I’m going to be hard on him because I want to get the best out of him. But I also said it works both ways because he is ultimately the general of this team. He has taken that message in the spirit it was intended.’
Goosen will be pitted against Kurtley Beale, himself making his first start at flyhalf. That match-up excites De Villiers, who warned that the Springboks must nullify Beale or they would struggle.
‘Beale is a classy player and it is quite a tantalising prospect seeing those two up against each other. He has shown what he can do playing in other positions at Test level, and he was very good at flyhalf in Super Rugby. We’ll have to be up for it defensively because he’ll definitely test us.’
By Ryan Vrede, in Johannesburg