Johan Goosen has opened up about the circumstances of his controversial departure from Racing 92, as he prepares to return to France to play for their Top 14 rivals Montpellier.
The 13-times capped Springbok sensationally decided to retire in 2016, despite signing a new lucrative contract with the French Top 14 club reportedly worth €500,000 a season until the summer of 2020.
“To be clear, I did not feel good in Paris. I am South African, I need space and, in the suburbs of Paris, the buildings are so close to each other that I felt like I was choking. I had the uncomfortable feeling of living in a box.” he told Le Figaro Sport.
“The worst part is that my son was also very unhappy. He who had tasted Bloemfontein’s farm and the open spaces was not doing this life. He cried all the time. And we, we did not sleep anymore. Yet I liked working with Laurent Labit. He listened to me, guided me, and scolded me sometimes. But because I was very unhappy off the pitch. I could not have stayed five more years. Money has nothing to do with it. I wanted another life, the sun, the space and the nature. I’ll have all this in Montpellier.”
Goosen has denied allegations that he’s been supported financially by Montpellier owner Mohed Altrad in advance of signing for the club, stating “”No, he did not do it. And even if he wanted to do it, he could not have done it. First, because I did not know him. And then my bank accounts were scrutinized (by Racing 92 baliffs). My first contacts with Montpellier go back to about six months ago.”
Continue reading below…
Goosen, who was the Top 14 player of the season in 2015/16, admits the decision to leave Racing has played on his mind.
“It was madness. I made a mistake. But that’s life. Paradoxically, I have also grown a lot over the past two years. I emptied my head and allowed my body to rebuild itself. I am today much cooler than I was in December 2016. But I went through bad times. I was very sad. I thought all of this would never end.
“Sometimes I said to myself, “Maybe I should go back to Racing finally?” And at other times, I was persuaded that going back would not do me any good. In fact, I was lost. If a player is in my situation, I will say to him: ‘Do not do it, you will regret it. The price to pay is too heavy.'”
He’s expecting a hostile reception when he returns to his former club in the Top 14.
“I’m going to be whistled, booed, insulted. But I do not care. I prepared myself for it. I know that everyone thinks that I am a bad guy and that I do not deserve the second chance that is offered to me today. Nevertheless, I hope that one day I will be forgiven and that in Montpellier, my rugby will make people happy.”
The 25-year-old feels he’s in top shape to return, despite an extended absence from the game.
“I played my first rugby match with the Cheetahs on April 13, 2018. I kept up squash, running, golf and a lot of hunting. I am hyperactive and sport has always had a big part in my life. It was out of the question for me to stop. And I knew that one day, I will play rugby again.
Sincerely, I feel good. And I did not really suffer when I played three PRO14 games with the Cheetahs. Physically, I felt in the know and I hope it will be confirmed in Montpellier. ”
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.