South Africa international flyhalf Johan Goosen said he has come to France to adapt his game and hopes it will help him earn a World Cup spot with the Springboks next year.
Former Cheetah Goosen, 22, has played five times for South Africa but made the radical decision to up sticks and move to Racing-Metro to help improve his kicking game.
He went with the blessings of Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer after an injury-ravaged start to his career that has seen him spend more time on the treatment table – he has undergone three knee operations and one each on his shoulder and arm – than the pitch.
But the young star from a farm in Burgersdorp believes this is the right move to develop his game.
“I'm enjoying the rugby again, the coaches are nice, people are nice, everybody's helping me,” he said.
“It's very hard, physical. South African rugby is faster, with dry fields, so here you've got to adapt to the weather and be physically up to the challenge.”
Goosen, who is highly-rated back in his homeland, gave a demonstration of his ability by kicking a 50-yard drop goal on his Racing debut.
Although he was left out of the South Africa squad for the ongoing Rugby Championship, Meyer says there is still room for Goosen to force his way back in.
“Johan Goosen is a quality player. I have always said if he wasn't injured he would play 100 tests,” the coach said last month.
“He is one of the best I have ever coached. Unfortunately he has been injured and with Handre Pollard coming through and with the squad of 30 – there are only a set amount of overseas players that can be picked.”
Meyer said it was a good move for Goosen to go to France and said he hopes it will help him get more playing time.
Goosen said that there was an element of trying to secure his future in the decision to join the most lucrative league in world rugby.
“He (Meyer) told me he's not going to pick me (for the Rugby Championship) if I come (to France), he didn't pick me but that's part of life,” said Goosen.
“I've just got to work hard and maybe I'll go to the World Cup because the World Cup is in England and it will suit me if I'm playing here.
“I've had a lot of injuries and your rugby career is just 10 or 12 years if you're lucky, I have to look after myself and my family one day. I really want to play for the Springboks but if not I'll just do my best here and enjoy my rugby.”
Goosen says he's someone who likes to run with the ball in hand so he will have to adapt to the different style of game in Europe.
“It's a bit slower than I'm used to but the contact area is more physical than I'm used to.
“The contest in the rucks is much more here than in South Africa where it's quick ball all the time: I'll just have to adapt.
“It was a tough decision but it's a new experience and I'm looking forward to it. It's life-changing but I can learn the language and new things in life.
“I'm still young so I can go back and play for the Springboks if they pick me.”
Goosen will have his work cut out trying to displace Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton, though.
“I can see it in a negative or positive way. I can learn from it, he's a very good player. We can learn from each other. If I get my chance, I have to perform. I like the pressure, he's a really good player and I can learn a lot.”
He added: “Obviosuly I want to take the 10 jersey and make it mine and become a better player.” – AFP