Frustration all round as Springboks admit injured Goosen was on radar for recall

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Johan Goosen. (Photo by Anton Geyser/Gallo Images)
Johan Goosen. (Photo by Anton Geyser/Gallo Images)
  • Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber admits that they were seriously considering an international recall for Bulls star Johan Goosen.
  • Frustratingly, the 29-year-old pivot was a perfect candidate for South Africa's search for experienced back-up to Handre Pollard and Elton Jantjies, only to sustain a long-term knee injury.
  • Nienaber also explained why he's not currently over-eager to include rookies in the No 10 jersey for his squad.

Following much clamouring for a return to international rugby from various quarters, Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber admits that Johan Goosen was indeed in contention for next month's tour to Europe.

The 29-year-old flyhalf made an excellent return to the local scene with the Bulls over the past few months before sustaining an ACL tear two weeks ago that will keep him on the sidelines for between 7 and 9 months.

Frustratingly, Morne Steyn's subsequent retirement from Test rugby would've presented Goosen with a golden opportunity to stake a claim.

"The are a lot fringe players on our standby list and Johan was definitely one of the guys we were looking at," said Nienaber.

"It’s unfortunate that he's injured, because Morne's decision definitely opened a window for someone to come in. Johan is definitely someone we're looking at."

READ | Why did in-form rookies like Evan Roos not make the Bok squad? Blame the teams' form

Notably, Goosen - all things being equal - probably would've jumped to the front of the queue over several youngsters such as the Lions' Jordan Hendrikse (who is also out for three months with a fractured ankle) and the Sharks' Henry 'Boeta' Chamberlain because of Springbok management's preference for more experienced players in the position looking ahead to the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

"If you look back in history, the World Cup has never been won by a flyhalf who’s younger than 25," said Nienaber.

"Those key, game-driving positions - like 9,10 and 15, line-out-calling lock or breakdown specialist - constitute the spine of your team and, in effect, needs to have experienced players in those positions because they need to handle extra pressure.

"That's why we chose Morne this year. We believed we needed more experienced at flyhalf."

It doesn't mean Nienaber and co aren't interested in keeping tabs on future prospects.

On the contrary, in fact.

But the decision to rather stick with tried and tested stalwarts was made a tad easier by Hendrikse in particular suffering his untimely setback.

"It's not that we're not looking at any young flyhalves. There were a couple of nice performances from the talent coming through in the United Rugby Championship recently. There’s no door that's shut," said Nienaber.

"That’s the bad thing with injuries. We all saw Jordan producing solid performances and getting used to the pace of the game at franchise level. It’s frustrating.

"It would’ve been great to see him play 16 to 17 games in one season, it would’ve done wonders for his development. But it is what it is. There’s some quality coming through. I even thought Boeta was solid for the Sharks."  

In the end, however, there can be little quibbling about Nienaber retaining Handre Pollard and Elton Jantjies as his only specialist flyhalves.

"We're very privileged in the sense that Handre has over 50 Tests but he’s still a relatively young flyhalf at 27. He’ll be 29 at the next World Cup and still only 33 in 2027. Elton will be 33 in France. They are experienced and youthful still," said the Bok mentor.

"There's a lot of versatility in terms of our squad. Damian Willemse and Frans Steyn both have experienced at No 10. That definitely counts in our favour."   

Springbok squad

Thomas du Toit, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, Joseph Dweba, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Salmaan Moerat, Marvin Orie, Siya Kolisi, Kwagga Smith, Marco van Staden, Duane Vermeulen, Jasper Wiese, Franco Mostert

Herschel Jantjies, Cobus Reinach, Grant Williams, Elton Jantjies, Handre Pollard, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel, Aphelele Fassi, Willie le Roux, Makazole Mapimpi, Sbu Nkosi, Frans Steyn, Damian Willemse

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