Cape Town - It has been a long and winding road for Johan Goosen this season, but the familiar Free State Stadium is just the stage for the mercurial utility back to strut his stuff.
Goosen first made his name as a youngster in Bloemfontein for Grey College and then the Free State youth teams before graduating into the senior Cheetahs side as a teenager in 2011.
He was so good that he was the leading Super Rugby points-scorer at one stage during the 2012 season with 145 points in just nine games, before he sustained a shoulder injury that would also rule him out of the Junior World Championship in Cape Town, which led to Handre Pollard being called up to the SA Under-20 squad, and they went on to win the title.
In some ways, that seems to have been the story of Goosen’s career – a prolific performer when on song, but with a body that breaks down too often for him to showcase his talent to the fullest.
He made a long-awaited return from a serious knee ligament injury this season, only to battle with a problematic shoulder and other niggles that has disrupted his progress and form, and ruled out any chance of him making the Springbok World Cup squad.
But it has been a pleasing few weeks for him at the Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup, and now he is excited about running out on his old stomping ground in Saturday’s semifinal against his former team (3pm kickoff).
Operating at fullback, he reminded everyone of what he is capable of last week in the 31-27 loss to the Free Staters in the last league match at Loftus, when he stroked a 59-metre penalty through the uprights – which was inexplicably ruled to have been missed by the match officials.
Embrose Papier is ELECTRIC ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/1BEkSET0Id— Official Blue Bulls (@BlueBullsRugby) June 13, 2023
“Personally for me, I had a tough season – a lot of injuries. I’ve played a lot of games where I wasn’t 100%, but I wanted to play. But this weekend will be a nice challenge in
Bloemfontein. I know that ground very well, so looking forward to that. At the moment, I am just focusing on the Currie Cup and doing my best for the Bulls,” Goosen said this week when asked about his Bok prospects.
“I must say, the last two or three games, the body is feeling better every day – training every week, getting more confidence after my shoulder operation.
“So, actually at the moment, I am feeling really good. Trainingwise, I am training well. It just needs to click, but I am confident that it will, and I am feeling good at the moment.”
Primarily a flyhalf, the 30-yearold has also featured at outside centre and fullback throughout his career for club and country.
He has been solid in the No 15 jersey recently, and set up a try for the Bulls last week by claiming a Morne Steyn up-and-under, which saw Cornal Hendricks dotting down.
He expects the Free State
Cheetahs – who will have veteran playmaker Ruan Pienaar back in their team – to put boot to ball more often on Saturday compared to last week.
“I am enjoying No 15, and you must understand that Kurtas (KurtLee Arendse) and Canan (Moodie) are at the Boks. So, wherever the team need me, I will do my best,” Goosen said.
“I am not like Kurtas there at the back – he is in a bit of a different class! But I just try my best in trying to help the team.
“They (the Cheetahs) actually didn’t kick such a lot last weekend, but I think in the semi-final, things will be a bit different – I think there will be more kicks coming to No 15 this weekend.
“We were fighting, and I think the game turned when Elrigh (Louw) got the red card. Then we just tried to stay in the game, and any other team may have just given up.
“So, I think we can take confidence out of that.
“On the other side of the story, we have now played them and seen their strong points and what works for them, so we have an idea of what they want to do.”