Jean backs the Goose
There were times in last week’s test match against Australia where the Springboks appeared to be protecting newcomer Johan Goosen, with the statistics reflecting that he may not have touched the ball as often as you might expect from a flyhalf while the decision was taken to relieve him of the goalkicking duties after just two shots at goal.
However it was later disclosed that Goosen was battling with an injury to the heel of his kicking foot, and skipper Jean de Villiers has followed up in the eve of the match captain’s press conference by stating emphatically that he has every confidence in the youngster’s ability to handle pressure.
“Can he handle pressure? Well, I can tell you that not much bothers the Goose,” said De Villiers.
“To me it seems that the bigger the event the bigger response from him. He just gets on with the job.”
It might seem weird to be even asking questions about Goosen’s ability to handle pressure after last week’s game. But apart from his only limited exposure to the goalkicking role, it was also a not insignificant fact that the Bok forwards laid on a table fit for a king to dine on at Loftus, with the platform that was laid leaving little opportunity for serious error.
There is no way against an All Black pack that will be smarting after the 'going over' they were given in Dunedin by the young Bok forwards three weeks ago and which is also more experienced and better equipped than the Wallabies were at Loftus that the same type of dominance can be anticipated. The ball won’t be as clean for Goosen, there probably won’t be quite as much go forward, and the All Black defenders are likely to be in his face instead of disappearing like the Australians did.
So the pressure that was heaped on Goosen down the M1 highway from where he is now ensconced in the team hotel at Montecasino will be as heavy in the so-called Soweto test as it was seven days ago, and there will be nearly 90 000 people there to watch the Boks play in what is being approached in far more of a Cup final atmosphere than what you would expect for a dead rubber game.
Goosen will resume the goalkicking duties on Saturday after coming through well when he kicked for the posts in training on Wednesday afternoon, and after last week’s misses, the heat will be on when he lines up his first attempt at FNB Stadium. More so because the management have made it clear this week that they can’t expect to beat the All Blacks just by scoring more tries, they are going to have to land the kicks that were missed both at Loftus and in Dunedin before that.
“We lost the test in Dunedin to the All Blacks by 10 points, and while you can say we were unlucky, the fact is the All Blacks were better than us because they took their chances better than us,” said the Bok skipper.
“But I am very confident in Johan’s ability (to kick for goal). He kicked in training on Wednesday and it went well for him and there is no reason he can’t carry that form into Saturday’s game.”
There certainly isn’t anything lacking in Goosen’s ability to kick for posts, and some of his exploits as a schoolboy have become the stuff of legend, with some monstrous kicks landed both at that level and at Currie Cup level for the Cheetahs. It was one of the reasons that All Black coach Steve Hansen, perhaps because he wasn’t aware Goosen was injured, was surprised that the Free Stater wasn’t persevered with for longer at Loftus.
“I was surprised he did not do more of the kicking as we really do know what a good goal-kicker he is. He showed that to us when he toured New Zealand with the Cheetahs in the Super Rugby season,” said Hansen.