Jake not going against Bok wishes in picking Goosen at 15 for Bulls: 'He will play 10 again'

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Johan Goosen and Jake White. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)
Johan Goosen and Jake White. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)
  • Johan Goosen's selection at fullback for the Bulls doesn't mean he won't be able to get into a groove playing like a flyhalf, where the Springboks would prefer to see him.  
  • Instead, Bulls mentor Jake White hopes to "shield" him physically in his first game back in 11 months while giving him freedom to determine his involvement as a playmaker.
  • White also wants to reward the unassuming Chris Smith for an excellent URC campaign last season as first-choice pivot.

Just because he won't be wearing the preferred No 10 jersey on his back doesn't mean that Springbok team management shouldn't be interested onlookers when Johan Goosen makes his long-awaited return for the Bulls on Saturday.

Following a near 11-month hiatus from a knee injury, the 30-year-old slots in at fullback for his franchise's URC meeting with Edinburgh at Loftus Versfeld, despite the national hierarchy probably wanting to see him have a go at pivot.

Goosen has been earmarked as the Boks' preferred third-choice flyhalf building towards next year's World Cup and looks certain to feature in some capacity on South Africa's year-end tour to Europe given the current depth crisis in the position.

Yet Jake White, the Bulls' director of rugby, believes he'll be granting one of his prized assets enough freedom to showcase his playmaking skills at 10 without overburdening him in terms of his match fitness.

"It gives us a chance to get Johan into the game without having to control things from the first minute, allow him to just get a bit of a feel again for the game because he won't last the 80 minutes. He's just gotten back from a long break," said the World Cup-winning former Bok coach.

"I'm sure the Boks would've preferred to see him at 10. He's in the mix there. But we're being conservative. I probably could've squeezed him in last week already, but we really just wanted to find the right time for him to come back.

"The Boks, if you read between the lines, have shown that they prefer guys who've been in the system for a long time, which explains why Frans is starting this weekend.

"I'm not taking away anything from someone else who's played well in the No 10 jersey over the past year. They need a seasoned guy. It would've been tough for a guy like Johan to slot in with just one week's preparation [if we picked him to play last week against the Lions]."

READ | Bulls battle depth, raised expectations in URC 2.0: 'No ways teams will come with their eyes closed again'

If anything, shifting Goosen to the last line of defence allows him more time on the ball to dictate matters.

"One of the things he can do is use his feet and get out of positions. He kicks well as a 10, so he's got a boot that can get us out of our 22. I want him to get involved as many times as he wants, wherever he wants to. There are no specific instructions, he just needs to fulfil his role in specific set-plays but that's about it," said White.

"My main aim is just to get him through this game and let him just be confident. He'll be in the firing line if he's going to start running things from the outset.

"I know him well enough to know that Johan won't not try to push himself into the No 10 position all the time. [By picking him at 15] he can control the way he wants to get involved in the game. It's exciting. The more he gets in the first receiver role, the more comfortable he'll get in the next few weeks.

"He wants to play 10 and the national coaches want that, but he understands the process too. It will happen."  

Teams:

Bulls 

15 Johan Goosen, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 David Kriel, 11 Stravino Jacobs, 10 Chris Smith, 9 Zak Burger, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Ruan Vermaak, 6 Marcell Coetzee (captain), 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Mornay Smith, 2 Johan Grobbelaar, 1 Gerhard Steenekamp

Substitutes: 16 Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Francois Klopper, 19 Janko Swanepoel, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Morne Steyn, 23 Stedman Gans

Edinburgh

15 Henry Immelman, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 James Lang, 11 Damien Hoyland, 10 Blair Kinghorn, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Luke Crosbie, 6 Jamie Ritchie (co-captain), 5 Grant Gilchrist (co-captain), 4 Sam Skinner, 3 WP Nel, 2 Dave Cherry, 1 Pierre Schoeman

Substitutes: 16 Stuat McInally, 17 Boan Venter, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Marshall Sykes, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Ben Vellacott, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Chris Dean 

Furthermore, White makes little secret of the fact that he wants to reward the wily Chris Smith for his efficient service at flyhalf for the past year.

"You also want players to feel that they're being looked after," said the Bulls mentor.    

"Chris has done nothing wrong. I don't want him to feel he gets shifted immediately when Johan returns. Hope and ambition is a big thing for a player. And I'm sure Chris wants to play alongside Johan." 

Kick-off is at 14:30 on Saturday.


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