Goosen bides his time

Johan Goosen says Heyneke Meyer has clearly communicated his reasons for delaying giving him a Test start but says that he feels ready to go.

Goosen has shifted into the national consciousness in recent weeks in light of Springboks’ flyhalf incumbent MornĂ© Steyn’s poor form. Meyer had identified Goosen as a successor to Steyn from the outset of his tenure, but injury prevented him from using him earlier. However, with Goosen fit and showing glimpses of his potential in two cameos off the wood against Australia and New Zealand, there are mounting calls for him to replace Steyn for the home leg of the Rugby Championship.

Meyer has held his cards close as far as Steyn’s immediate future is concerned but he certainly has a sense of the pressure he is under to cut the player. He has consistently explained his rationale for holding Goosen back, stressing that how he is introduced into that Test fold will be decisive in shaping the player he will become.

Goosen said, having been briefed on Meyer’s reasoning, he was content with his role at present.

‘The coach has been great in how he has dealt with me. I’ve always known his plans and I believe those plans are in my best interests,’ Goosen told keo.co.za. ‘He has been very careful, especially in terms of my exposure to the media and so on. I’m patient. I know what the purpose of the plan is. But I also feel like I can make the step up to start if the coach asks me to. I feel ready.’

Meyer is unlikely to veer from his kick-chase approach for the Loftus and Soccer City Tests, which brings into question Goosen’s aptitude in executing the skills necessary to succeed within this framework. He is a player who enjoys standing flat to the line, taking that line on himself or keeping ball in hand in a bid to create opportunities for those on his outside. Goosen reckons that he will have to temper his natural instinct slightly if he starts, but scoffed at the notion that Meyer is conservative.

‘Of course you have to be a little more careful about your attacking play in Test rugby, defensive systems are so good and teams punish small errors. But that doesn’t mean the coach doesn’t encourage me to run the ball when it is on,’ he said. ‘I work hard on my tactical kicking, even though we don’t kick that often at the Cheetahs. I feel I can fit into the plans from a kicking perspective. But of course my strength is running the ball. There’s a lot of room for that with the Springboks and the coach encourages us to express ourselves. It is about assessing the opposition’s defensive set up quickly and taking that split second you have to go wide. I think that is the biggest adjustment you have to make from Super Rugby – the time and space you have is so much less.’

Asked what he thought of the vitriol that has been aimed at Steyn in the last week, Goosen said: ‘I feel deeply sorry for him. He is a great guy, so humble and he works so hard in training. He has won many, many Tests for the Boks. He is going through a difficult time now, we all do, and he deserves better than what he is getting from some people and the media.’

By Ryan Vrede

Follow Ryan on Twitter
Follow SA Rugby magazine on Twitter