An emotional Johan Goosen repaid the faith bestowed in him by Heyneke Meyer and proved that he is the real deal in his run-on debut at the weekend.
Nerves got the better of the teary-eyed 20-year-old when he hooked two penalties early on, but these blemishes did little to detract from a polished overall performance.
Whilst it would be inaccurate to put the drastic turnaround down to Goosen alone, the prodigious pivot played an integral role in the demolition of the Wallabies at Loftus Versfeld.
Meyer and Jean de Villiers tried to pull the wool over South African supporters’ eyes by stating the Boks didn’t veer from their gameplan but this is not the case.
They did make subtle changes and Goosen was central to those, the greatest distinction being how flat the youngster played. By running on to the ball at pace as opposed to sitting in the pocket and trying to orchestrate linebreaks from a standing start 10-15 metres behind the gainline, Goosen gave the Boks the momentum and front foot ball they longed for all year.
This was the key to their success on Saturday - winning the gainline battle by playing flat on attack and asking questions of the Australian defence through a willingness to attack from ten.
Goosen galvanised what had been a stale, predictable backline with crisp distribution, be it pinpoint cut-out passes, inside balls off the cuff or offloads in the tackle. The outside backs were finally brought into the game and had the Wallaby defence at sixes and sevens.
The kicking was also toned down - with a total of 21 kicks compared to the 27 against the All Blacks in Dunedin - which, along with superlative breakdown play gave the Boks more possession that in turn led to more try-scoring opportunities.
With a multi-skilled flyhalf running the show, the Springboks suddenly have versatility and a hint of unpredictability. Goosen’s arrival has added several strings to South Africa’s bow that will have defences in two minds, a quality the Springboks haven’t possessed in ages.
The two missed penalties is a non-issue. Goosen has proven himself to be a reliable goal-kicker with the uncanny ability to slot kicks from 60 metres out and will transfer his stellar provincial form in this department to the international stage as he finds his feet at Test level.
What was common knowledge in South Africa was announced to the rest of the world at the weekend - the Springboks have found themselves a star in this blue-chipper.
Meyer, for all the criticism he has come under, needs to be credited for his calculated gamble. An undeniable talent no question, but Goosen had just two brief cameos off the bench prior to Saturday’s Test.
Meyer could easily have played the Loftus card in defence of giving Morne Steyn one last go but instead, he made his first bold decision of his tenure as Bok boss and reaped the rewards.
Armed with new-found confidence and momentum, the Boks will be relishing their clash with the All Blacks in Soweto this weekend and brimming with belief that they can end the world champions’ 15-match unbeaten run.
By Quintin van Jaarsveld.
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