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Johan Goosen, raised on the saddle of a horse, is back in the saddle of Jake White’s Vodacom Bulls.  It may be a different type of saddle but Goosen’s confidence and ability is no different, whether he is on the farm or on a rugby field.

Goosen is a veteran in rugby terms. But Goosen, the teenager, earmarked as a schoolboy who would play 100 Tests for the Springboks and be South Africa’s equal of All Blacks icon Dan Carter, has not played 100 Tests. He has not even played 15 Tests, but a decade into his professional career, that has taken him to France, back to South Africa, back to France and back to South Africa, it is in Goosen that White trusts as the Vodacom Bulls look to repeat their incredible effort of last season when they stunned Leinster in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship semi-final in Dublin.

Goosen contributed 23 points to the Vodacom Bulls’ 78-12 demolition of Zebre Parma to book their place in the top eight and the playmaker will again be central to this week’s blockbuster clash against league-leaders Leinster at Loftus Versfeld.

Goosen, capped 13 times at Test level for the Springboks, struck 10 conversions and a penalty in his first start in the 2022-23 Vodacom URC, a reminder that he is the mercurial No 10 who had dominated and influenced wins for Montpellier in the French Top 14 between 2018 and 2021.

His display helped unleash fellow Springboks Canan Moodie and Embrose Papier – the scrumhalf crossing for two tries against Zebre while winger Moodie added three more as the Vodacom Bulls logged 11 tries on the day.

Goosen showed excellent awareness and composure in the pocket to allay fears his recent injury setbacks have impacted his playmaking prowess.

“If a guy like Goosen comes in from a long injury, he was out for a while and he plays like that, it brings a lot of confidence to the team,” said Vodacom Bulls assistant coach Pine Pienaar post-match. “If we as a squad are in a position where we have those kinds of players and in certain positions, then I think it’s healthy.

“[Goosen] did well against Zebre, and the forwards did really well to give Goose the front-foot ball he needed, and Embrose Papier working well off the base of the breakdown, so it’s fantastic to have a guy like him back. We’re really fortunate.”

Goosen, who is able to play at fullback, outside centre, inside centre and flyhalf, is something of an enigma. Prodigiously talented and touted by coaches the world over, the 30-year-old’s career has been beset with injury layoffs.

His return to South Africa three years ago to join the Vodacom Bulls coincided with a revival for the Pretoria-based outfit under director of rugby (Jake) White, but a knee injury curtailed his 2021-22 campaign and he has missed half of this season due to a shoulder injury that required surgery.

However, White has put Goosen back in the saddle to drive The Herd to a second successive Vodacom URC final.

“I signed him on a long-term contract, he’s here until 2026. Through injury he has been in and out, but part of my brief is to get him to play his best rugby,” White said. “I’ve seen him playing in France and he was a Player of the Tournament twice in the Top 14.

“The bottom line is he has come back from another injury … he has had some time under his belt [in the Currie Cup] and I need to get him back to where I know he can get to.

“Obviously if he is playing his best rugby and is combining with guys like Canan and Kurt-Lee [Arendse], and Embrose Papier, who have also been playing really well as well, then all of a sudden you’ve got four Springboks in your backline.

“And I’ve said it many times, when you get that sort of experience and that calibre of players playing together, it gives you a chance in big games. He’s back now and I can’t wait to see how he goes.”

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