‘Fresh’ Keagan Johannes ready to spark Bulls against Sharks

Bulls scrumhalf Keagan Johannes says he has been working hard on his box-kicks this season. Photo: BackpagePix

Bulls scrumhalf Keagan Johannes says he has been working hard on his box-kicks this season. Photo: BackpagePix

Published May 29, 2024


Despite going through some tough times due to a lack of regular game time, Bulls scrumhalf Keagan Johannes is excited about helping the team in their bid to clinch their maiden United Rugby Championship title.

With Embrose Papier in outstanding form this season, there have been few opportunities for Johannes to display his natural attacking talents for the Pretoria outfit.

He has shared the bench duties with Zak Burger, who has featured much more regularly, and hopes to play a bigger part in the Bulls’ potential charge towards the title – starting with Saturday’s last league game against the Sharks in Durban (4.05pm kick-off).

Jake White’s team are currently second on the log on 61 points – behind leaders Munster on 63 – and will hope that the Irish province slip up against Ulster in Limerick on Saturday to open the door to the No 1 spot.

The 24-year-old Johannes was a star flyhalf for Garsfontein at school, and is eager to contribute to the Bulls’ cause with his versatility.

“Personally for me it’s been a roller-coaster of emotions. There were times that I haven’t been playing a lot, but I’ve worked hard to get my spot again in the team,” Johannes said.

“So, for me to be playing and be in the team at this stage of the tournament really means a lot, to see that all the hard work that I’ve put in is showing.

“Mentally it’s always very tough, but you’ve just got to keep on telling yourself that your chance is going to come.

“You have to be there for the team – you can’t be selfish and only think about you. You have to prepare guys during the week for the game … That probably touches on the professional part of it – you have to get up and prepare guys for the game on the weekend, and just always stay ready for when your chance is there.

“I’ve been working so hard to be here. I feel fresh because I haven’t played a lot, and I want to show the coaches and my teammates what I’m capable of, so it’s very exciting.”

Veteran scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar, who retired a few weeks ago at the age of 40, is someone who successfully dovetailed between No 9 and No 10, which has inspired Johannes.

“When I’ve been moving between nine and 10 I have been studying Ruan Pienaar’s clips, and he was still doing it until a few weeks ago,” he said.

“The guy was good wherever he played – someone I looked up to, and someone who has given me a lot of tips and studies that I can take into my game. Definitely Ruan Pienaar – I mean, the guy’s a legend!

“Embrose is playing very good rugby at the moment, and we are all happy for him. Obviously you would want much more game time, but like I’ve said before, the coaches have a plan and we believe in it and back everyone on the pitch.

“I have worked very hard on my box-kicks since my shift from flyhalf to scrumhalf. I am very confident with my kicking game, and worked very hard on it in the off-season. It depends on the game plan on the weekend, but whatever is thrown at me, I know I am prepared for it.”

Weather conditions and the heavy Kings Park pitch may force the Bulls to shelve their usual all-out attacking mindset, while the Sharks are riding high after winning the Challenge Cup title last weekend.

But Johannes is confident that the Bulls can play accordingly: “We still have a chance to end on top of the log, and the guys are very excited.

“It’s at the business end of the tournament, so it’s best for us to focus on ourselves and what we need to do to proceed in this tournament.

“Conditions are always difficult down there, with the slippery ball. But the mornings here in Pretoria have helped us to prepare for that – the ball has been wet enough during training. We are a team that can adapt according to how the day turns out.

“We definitely have more confidence this season. We are in good form, we are peaking at the right times. So, the self-confidence is there, and we believe in the plan that we have – and we will see how it goes, and execute our plans well.”