Johannesburg – In 2003 when Dan Carter made his All Blacks debut, Johan Goosen was 11 years old and in grade five in school in Burgersdorp in the Eastern Cape.
Now, nine years later, Goosen will come up against the very man many believe he will take over from as the world’s best No10.
Saturday’s Rugby Championship Test between the Boks and All Blacks at Soccer City won’t be Goosen’s most important – those Tests are still to be played – but it will be the biggest match of his career, Test or otherwise.
In 2003, when Carter was making his debut against Wales, young Goosen was thinking of perhaps playing cricket for South Africa, for that was his choice of sport as a primary school learner. Only when he got to Grey College as a grade eight pupil did rugby really bite ... and what a meteoric rise it has been for “Goose”, as his teammates like to call him.
SA Schools, SA U-20s and Boks at the age of 20. In tomorrow’s match Carter will be playing in his 91st Test, Goosen just his fourth.
Not in his wildest dreams would Goosen have imagined that, just two years out of school he’d be South Africa’s first-choice flyhalf and lining up to face arguably the world’s best No10 in Carter. But that’s sport ... and now it’s time to deliver and show he is the real deal.
The stage could not be bigger. Up to 80000 are expected at Soccer City for a match that has little significance due to the fact New Zealand have already won the Rugby Championship, but for Heyneke Meyer’s team, after their strong showing of a week ago when they demolished the Wallabies 31-8 at Loftus, a second win on the trot would be hugely satisfying.
Having pushed the All Blacks so close in Dunedin three weeks ago, for one man, tomorrow’s Test will be just a little more important.
Goosen has for some time been talked about as the man to wear the Bok No10 in future and while he’s made three good appearances – last week being his first start – facing Carter will be his first proper challenge at this level.
He’s not a man of many words and has openly stated he doesn’t like the attention, but SA won’t mind that if he continues to grow in the No10 role and helps the Boks to victory. Those who know Goosen well say he’s nerveless and doesn’t get flustered or pressurised ... but you can be sure there will be butterflies in his tummy tomorrow.
Having not practiced his goal-kicking for two weeks because of a bruised heel, he missed his only two shots at goal against the Wallabies and then only kicked for the first time in training on Wednesday this week. And, it appears he will be asked to handle the kicking duties tomorrow ... a big ask considering Goosen’s hardly trained this week.
But as kicking coach Louis Koen revealed this week, when goal-kicking is one of your strengths, as it is for Goosen, it’s something you need to do to build confidence in your general game. “I believe that if you kick poorly it’ll affect other parts of your game, so in the case of Johan, we want him to be kicking and kicking well because that will boost his general game,” said Koen.
Head coach Meyer added to the pressure Goosen will be under when he said: “We have to be successful with over 80 percent of our kicks if we want to beat the All Blacks ... nothing else will do,” he said. “Goosen’s a great player and he gives us something different, but he will make mistakes. It’s the only way he’ll learn. We need to put him in those positions, but he’ll get better and improve as a player.”
Goosen appears well on his way to making the No10 his own, now he gets a chance to show whether he is, indeed, the new wünderkind of world rugby. – The Star
SPRINGBOKS: Zane Kirchner, Bryan Habana, Jaco Taute, Jean de Villiers, Francois Hougaard, Johan Goosen, Ruan Pienaar, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Andries Bekker, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Beast Mtawarira. Replacements: Tiaan Liebenberg, Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe, Marcell Coetzee, Elton Jantjies, Juan de Jongh, Pat Lambie
All Blacks: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Hosea Gear, Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw, Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock. Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Luke Romano, Adam Thomson, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Tamati Ellison.