Jonathan Kaplan hails Johan Goosen as schoolboy 'prodigy'

  • SA refereeing legend Jonathan Kaplan identifies Johan Goosen as the best player he saw operate at schoolboy level.
  • Kaplan says Goosen and Handre Pollard were 'streets ahead' of the other gamebreakers he saw.
  • Schalk Burger was a 'beast' at school and commanded the respect of his peers.

Former South African referee Jonathan Kaplan says that Springbok Johan Goosen was the best gamebreaker he saw operate at school level.

Kaplan retired from international refereeing with 70 Tests to his name. 

He was a mainstay of the South African refereeing circuit for around 25 years and officiated at all levels, seeing countless players go through the system from schoolboy level through to the Springboks. 

In an exclusive interview with Sport24, Kaplan was asked about who stood out most for him as a schoolboy. 

"They all occupy different positions and it’s not fair to say this flank is better than that flyhalf," Kaplan said.

"So as far as gamebreakers go, Handre Pollard and Johan Goosen stand out. They were streets ahead of anyone else and you could see it at schoolboy level already. If I had to pick one at schoolboy level, not because of the team he was playing for, but I think that Johan Goosen was a prodigy. He started to play quite soon after for the Free State and had a couple of injuries which is unfortunate and then went to France. But I just think he is a rare talent, definitely someone I put right up there."

Goosen attended Grey College in Bloemfontein.

"Handre Pollard was more considered, more thoughtful and he fitted into a game plan well, had a shotgun boot and played for a very successful team. Those two are miles ahead of the others."

Pollard, South Africa's general at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, was schooled at Paarl Gimnasium. 

Kaplan then listed numerous others who he remembers shining at school level.

"Schalk Burger at school (also Paarl Gimnasium) was a beast. He was a freak in terms of his strength and you could see how the team looked up to him in term of leadership. He had a massive career, probably around 20 years. If not for his Meningitis and travelling to Saracens, he might have played a few more Tests and got close to 100. From that perspective, he was incredible," Kaplan said.

As recently as last year, Kaplan was still reffing schoolboy matches. 

Jonathan Kaplan's schoolboy XV:

15 Willie le Roux (Paul Roos), 14 James Small (Greenside), 13 Paul Jordaan (Grey College), 12 Jan Serfontein (Grey College), 11 Dillyn Leyds (Bishops), 10 Johan Goosen (Grey College) and Handre Pollard (Paarl Gimnasium), 9 Herschel Jantjies (Paul Roos), 8 Bob Skinstad (Hilton College), 7 Schalk Burger (Paarl Gimnasium), 6 Siya Kolisi (Grey High), 5 Andries Bekker (Paul Roos), 4 Marvin Orie (Tygerberg), 3 Frans Malherbe (Paarl Boys’ High), 2 Ashley Johnson (Paarl Gimnasium), 1 Thomas du Toit (Paarl Boys’ High)

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