Rugby: Goosen in step to meet AB challenge

By Jacques van der Westhuyzen

Young Bok's just two years out of school, playing his fourth test and against the man he's tipped to succeed

Twenty-year-old South African Johan Goosen's rise in rugby has been meteoric to the stage where some are predicting he will become with world's best first five-eighths. Picture / Getty Images
Twenty-year-old South African Johan Goosen's rise in rugby has been meteoric to the stage where some are predicting he will become with world's best first five-eighths. Picture / Getty Images

In 2003 when Dan Carter made his All Black debut, Johan Goosen was 11 years old and a schoolboy in Burgersdorp, in the Eastern Cape.

Now, nine years later, Goosen will come up against the very man many believe he will take over from as the world's best No 10. Tomorrow's Rugby Championship test between the Boks and All Blacks at Soccer City won't be Goosen's most important - those tests are still to be played - but it will be the biggest match of his career.

In 2003, when Carter was making his debut against Wales, young Goosen was thinking of perhaps playing cricket for South Africa, his choice of sport in primary school. Only when he got to Grey College did rugby really bite for "Goose", as his team-mates call him.

SA Schools, SA U-20s and Boks at the age of 20. In tomorrow's match Carter will be playing in his 91st test, Goosen just his fourth.

Not in his wildest dreams would Goosen have imagined that, just two years out of school he'd be South Africa's first choice first five-eighths and lining up to face arguably the world's best No 10 in Carter.

Up to 80,000 are expected at Soccer City tomorrow for a match that has little significance as New Zealand have already won the Rugby Championship. But Heyneke Meyer and his charges will want to build on their strong showing last week when they demolished the Wallabies 31-8.

A second win on the trot would be hugely satisfying for the Boks, and the country, after pushing the All Blacks so close in Dunedin three weeks ago.

Goosen has for some time been talked about as the man to wear the Bok No 10 in future and while he's made three good appearances - last week being his first start - facing Carter will be his first proper challenge at this level.

He's not a man of many words and has openly stated he doesn't like the attention, but South Africa won't mind if he continues to grow in the No 10 role and helps the Boks to victory.

Having not practised his goal-kicking for two weeks because of a bruised heel, he missed his only two shots at goal against the Wallabies and then kicked for the first time in training only on Wednesday this week. And it appears he will be asked to handle the kicking duties tomorrow.

But as kicking coach Louis Koen revealed this week, when goal-kicking is one of your strengths, as it is for Goosen, it's something you need to do to build confidence in your general game. "I believe that if you kick poorly it'll affect other parts of your game ... so in the case of Johan, we want him to be kicking and kicking well because that will boost his general game," said Koen.

Meyer added to the pressure Goosen will be under when he said: "We have to be successful with over 80 per cent of our kicks if we want to beat the All Blacks ... nothing else will do.

"Goosen's a great player and he gives us something different, but he will make mistakes. It's however the only way he'll learn ... we need to put him in those positions ... but I know he'll get better and improve as a player."

Goosen, full of confidence and having every skill in the book, tomorrow gets a chance to show whether he is, indeed, the new wunderkind of world rugby.

Johan Goosen
Age: 20
Tests: 3
Height: 1.85m
Weight: 89kg
Debut: v Australia 2012

- NZ Herald

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