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Jake White: I’m blown away by just how good Johan Goosen is

FILE - South Africa's Johan Goosen scores a try during The 2016 Rugby Championship. Photo: Tertius Pickard/

FILE - South Africa's Johan Goosen scores a try during The 2016 Rugby Championship. Photo: Tertius Pickard/

Published Jul 17, 2021


CAPE TOWN - Rugby coaches are usually cautious and cagey, careful not to make too many dramatic statements about their own players or the opposition – in case the said player’s ego gets too big, or it provides motivation for the opponents.

But there was no stopping Jake White when he spoke about his latest signing for the Bulls, Johan Goosen, who will make his debut for the Pretoria side against South Africa A at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday (1pm kickoff).

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In fact, the first time White mentioned the former Cheetahs star, he wasn’t even asked about him, but rather centre pair Cornal Hendricks and Harold Vorster.

But the ex-Springbok coach couldn’t hide his excitement about finally having Goosen in the No 10 jersey.

“I’ve been training with Johan Goosen at 10, and I can tell you… Jeez, this guy is a phenomenal rugby player. In the small space of time he’s come in here… I know I wax lyrical about a lot of players – the Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Frans Steyns and Schalk Burgers that I’ve coached,” White started.

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“There’s nothing he can’t do. He’s got pace, he’s got skill, he passes. He goes flat to the line, he’s brave. I will be very, very surprised if he doesn’t play for South Africa again. I’m incredibly surprised that he hasn’t played 50 Test matches for South Africa. And I’m not giving him the coach’s curse – now all of a sudden he doesn’t play well tomorrow.

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“I’m a realist. I know he’s just joined us. He is a hell of a keen, he’s hell of an eager, he just wants to impress and I am sure he will try as hard as he can.

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“But in the long run, I’ve got no doubt that he is the real deal. I’ve seen him, I’ve interacted with him. He could play 10, 12, 13, 14, 15 – he could do it as well as any player I’ve got in my team.”

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You thought that was enough? White didn’t. “It’s just – I’m blown away by just how good he is. I can tell you, he’s changed the way we can play, and the way we can coach our team, which is always a great thing.

“It’s a wonderful attribute to have as a coach when you know you can try certain things and play in a different way, by using skills that he can do better than anyone else I have seen.”

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Wow, that’s some rap, as the Americans would say.

And while there is no denying Goosen’s talent, he now has to go and back up his coach’s words in his first game for his new team. And it’s against a man who has a point to prove himself, Elton Jantjies, who is a World Cup winner and has been part of the Springbok set-up for years.

Talk about pressure…

But there will be 14 other Bulls players on the pitch, and White has called on them to give the SA A team a proper work-out ahead of the British and Irish Lions series, while also putting their hand up for Bok selection.

Apart from Goosen, the Bulls backline has a refreshing look about it, with a skilful youngster in FC du Plessis one to watch at fullback.

The main challenge for the Currie Cup champions, though, will come upfront, where the forwards will have a tough time in trying to secure enough possession for the backs.

“I look at that SA A side, and a lot of the guys haven’t played a lot of rugby either. I think it’s going to be a fair test for everybody. I’m sure Rassie would want those guys to get some sort of hit-out as well. I would be very happy to see four, five, six guys play for the Boks over the next year – then I am doing my job,” White said.

“The fact that they (SA A) haven’t (asked the Bulls to focus on a specific area of play) could mean that they would like to have us challenge them with certain things that they don’t expect.

“The way that I look at it, if they had asked me to do certain things and I did it, then in some ways the game becomes meaningless because it almost becomes a practice game. The one key phrase I’ve heard is that there needs to be an intensity put on in this game. On Wednesday against the Lions, SA A just upped the intensity.

“If we can play in a certain way and do certain things, we could probably put that in our arsenal going forward when we play against the Leinsters and Munsters, who have a lot of international players, instead of just playing local derbies every Saturday.”


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