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I’m not a fan of 4G pitches, says Jake White after Johan Goosen injury in Bulls win

Johan Goosen of Bulls leaves the field with medical staff. Photo: Ben Evans/Huw Evans/Shutterstock/BackpagePix

Johan Goosen of Bulls leaves the field with medical staff. Photo: Ben Evans/Huw Evans/Shutterstock/BackpagePix

Published Oct 10, 2021


Cape Town – Jake White says he understands why 4G synthetic pitches are used in the northern hemisphere, but he is not in favour of it and wonders if it played a role in Johan Goosen’s knee injury against Cardiff on Saturday night.

The Bulls flyhalf tried to step inside in the 15th minute of the 29-19 United Rugby Championship victory at Cardiff Arms Park, but immediately went down and clutched his left knee.

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The anguish was clear on his face as he seemed to tell the medical staff in Afrikaans that “it’s off”, in reference to his knee ligaments.

He had to be assisted off the field, and was replaced by Chris Smith, who showed great composure to score 19 points with the boot and help engineer a second-half turnaround in the Bulls’ maiden URC victory.

Coach White is still holding out hope that Goosen’s injury is not severe, but expressed his unhappiness with the 4G surface, which is a mixture of grass and a synthetic pitch.

“It’s one of those where I often – I asked him if it was sore, and I was hoping he would say yes, because when you get a knee injury, the more sore it is, the more chance you have of someone being available. If it’s off (ligaments off the bone), then you don’t feel anything,” the former Springbok mentor said.

“At this point in time, he thinks it’s not good news – and I think he’s had a couple of ACL injuries before, so I’m sure he would know. But one never knows.

“Maybe with the adrenaline that’s there now and the disappointment, and where his head-space is, maybe he’s fearing the worst. But hopefully when he gets scanned, it won’t be as bad we thought it would be.

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“It’s a different kind of pitch, and to be honest – it’s probably not the right thing to say on a media thing to you – but I’m not a fan of 4G pitches. Having coached in the north and seen these 4G pitches, I’m not a fan. I understand why they do it – the weather and water tables, freezing and all that in the north.

“But I often wonder if Goosen’s injury could’ve been prohibited (prevented) if we had played on grass, because it’s such a different (surface). Hardly anything happened there – he just turned his leg to change direction, and I think the fact that his foot got stuck in the turf and doesn’t give (way) as much as grass turf is obviously the reason why you can get a lot of knee and ankle injuries.”

White said he had a chat with Cardiff director of rugby Dai Young before the match about the pitch.

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“It’s very different, and it’s not a negative. It’s circumstance, it’s weather. I spoke to Dai Young about it before the game, and there is obviously a lot more to it – the community game, and they need to keep numbers... I’m talking about generally, around the world,” he said.

“We’re very fortunate with our temperatures and our fields that we don’t really need synthetic pitches. Our outdoors (environment) and our rugby season are generally mild enough for us to have grass.

“It’s an adaptation. I’m not a believer in it. I actually prefer grass and I prefer playing on pitches that we are used to.”

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But White and the Bulls will have to contend with another 4G pitch in next Saturday’s final tour match, against Edinburgh at the DAM Health Stadium, a 7 800-capacity arena, which is one of the rugby grounds outside the famous Murrayfield.


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