Cape Town – Keagan Johannes was once seen as the heir apparent to fellow Cape West Coast star scrumhalf Embrose Papier, but he has had to bide his time for a proper opportunity.
The 23-year-old from Mamre has had limited game-time this season, with Tuks Varsity Cup star Bernard van der Linde seemingly leapfrogging him into the Bulls URC squad.
But Johannes, who featured in the second half of the 63-15 massacre against the Pumas a few weeks ago, has now finally been handed the No 9 jersey for Friday’s Currie Cup clash against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein (5.05pm kickoff).
With the Blue Bulls having also tasted defeat against Western Province last week (41-33), they need to get their campaign going as soon as possible, and coach Edgar Marutlulle has provided Johannes with a chance to make a difference at the Free State Stadium.
While he is known for his lightning speed across the ground, the former junior star believes that the boot will play a vital role on Friday.
“Yes, I haven’t had much game-time, but coach Jake (White) and everyone at the union has a plan with everyone. Personally, I feel confident about the game, and the only thing we can do now is bring more energy into the squad and give everyone the opportunity to show that we can play ball and are capable of winning these tough games,” Johannes said this week.
“For us coming in, it’s about bringing stability to the team and squad, and putting our hands up to show that we are capable of playing in the Currie Cup, as well as the URC.
“It’s not about me, but the team. We have a plan to beat the Cheetahs, and it will take a team effort to beat them. I will focus on my game to play well, but also to contribute to the team and make sure that it is a team effort to beat the Cheetahs.
“(The kicking game) is a big part of my game that I’ve worked on, and I feel I have improved a lot. The kicking game and pattern will be handy this weekend.”
Johannes said it will be a “great privilege” to face Cheetahs veteran Ruan Pienaar in the halfback battle, and feels that the Bulls have the tools to emerge victorious in Bloemfontein.
“I don’t think there’s anything missing at this moment… We just need to keep our heads in the game, keep focused and stick to our plan. Sometimes as a team, we track away from our plan. It’s just to know the plan and stick to it until the end,” he said.
“There’s a plan for everyone, and the players believe in that plan. We stay positive, knowing that a chance will come to show that we are capable of playing in these games and putting our hands up.
“We’re sticking to our processes. There are a few tweaks here and there, but not major, and the team are very confident going into this game.
“They’re a well-balanced team between running and kicking. I feel like everyone just talks about the Cheetahs’ running game, but their strong point is their kicking and kicking metres (they gain). So, if we can focus on managing that, we stand a good chance of beating the Cheetahs.”