The timing of the serious knee injury suffered by Bulls flyhalf Johan Goosen was so frustrating that it would be little wonder if Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber was pulling his hair out. If he had any of course.
The 29-year-old Goosen has played 13 Tests for the Springboks, the last in 2016, and he said on Wednesday that he is hopeful of getting back there.
Since being encouraged back into rugby at the Bulls, his exceptional displays last year saw him set to return to the international fold, before he tore his ACL ligament last October. But he is clearly in Nienaber’s long-term 2023 World Cup plans.
“The rehab is going well but I still have two-to-three months to go before I can get on the pitch and train again,” Goosen, who was walking unaided, said at a Castle Lager media launch in Tembisa on Wednesday.
“It’s been tough mentally and I had to have a second surgery about two months ago because something was loose in the knee, so that was the 11th operation of my career, so I’m used to it.
“Coming back to South Africa, I played well enough that I really thought I had a chance at the Springboks, so I was sad to get injured, but Jacques Nienaber did phone me and ask if I still wanted to play for the Boks.
“I’ve been at the two alignment camps this year and from being a little boy, I just wanted to play in a World Cup. In 2015, Heyneke Meyer said I was going and then didn’t pick me, and in 2019 I had stuff going on off the field,” Goosen said, referring to his controversial retirement from the game.
It really does seem like the experienced flyhalf’s deepest desire is indeed to return to the Springbok squad for next year’s World Cup and, if all goes well and he is back playing in September, then there is plenty of time to earn his recall.
There may not be any Currie Cup for him to use to ease back into action though, and it will be straight back into Europe for the former France-based player.
“My new goal is to work really hard and make the World Cup squad. I’m targeting a return in the United Rugby Championship, and hopefully I will just miss the first two or three matches,” Goosen said.
“It’s going to be tough in Europe next season because there’s the Champions Cup as well. I played in the Challenge Cup final and even that is a level up from the URC.”