— Cape Town While Johan Goosen will start at fullback against Edinburgh and not flyhalf, head coach Jake White wants the 30-year-old to “get his hands on the ball” at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday (2.30pm kickoff).
Friday, White selected the former Cheetahs star in the No. 15 jersey, despite Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber’s desire to put him in the pivot position on the end-of-year tour to Europe.
However, Goosen has been out of action for nearly a year after suffering a major knee injury against Cardiff in October of last year, and White wants to ease him back onto the field gradually.
“I’m certain they (Bok coaches) would like to see him at flyhalf, as I am aware he is in the mix for that position. Again, we are being cautious. I could have fit him in last week, but I think we need to find the proper timing,” the former Bok coach remarked on Friday.
“The Boks have also made it plain that they need individuals who have been in the system for a while, which is why they’ve signed Frans (Steyn). Not to take anything away from those who have performed admirably in the number 10 jersey over our campaigns…
“However, they stated that they require a veteran familiar with their methods, so it would have been difficult for any player, including Johan, to go in there with only one week of preparation and play the way they want him to. He will hopefully do well for us before then.”
Chris Smith was a significant contribution to the Bulls’ journey to the United Rugby Championship final last season, and White wished to preserve his status in the team.
However, there is also potential for Goosen, who has seven Test caps as a fullback compared to six as a flyhalf, to work his magic.
“It’s also important that each athlete feels cared for. “I didn’t want Chris Smith to feel like he had to give up his jersey as soon as Goosen arrived since he had done nothing wrong,” White added.
“There is plenty to be said about athletes’ hope as well. There is a great deal of optimism over his desire to play with Goosen, and I’m sure he’s looking forward to that pairing as well.
“I’m also aware that he was the Player of the Top 14 at Racing Metro, so he’d likely be interested in playing 13 as well!
“I have Goosen at fullback… Even he does not know what he is going to do!
“He can use his feet and get out of positions, akin to Canan (Moodie) and Kurt-Lee (Arendse) in this regard.
“He also kicks effectively, so if he is caught, he can also pull us out of our own 22. I want him to participate as often as he desires, wherever he desires, and to gain confidence for the future.
“There is no specified function. Obviously, we have predetermined plays that we run, and he is aware of his role in these plays. However, the more times he touches the ball, whether in position 10, 12, 13, or even outside the wingers, the better.
“My primary objective is to get him through this game after a lengthy injury, and then to instill in him the confidence that he can play in any position for us moving forward.
“I’m aware that he wants to play 10, and I’m sure that’s where the national coaches want to see him as well — and he will. However, we will attempt to control it. He understands rugby well enough to know that he can exert control when he desires.”