Johan Goosen: Players retiring from rugby early should not be a shock

Bob Baker
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Gone Goosen: Last year's Top 14 player of the year has retired at just 24 (Source: Getty)

Last week, Racing 92 announced the “shock” retirement of 24-year-old fly-half Johan Goosen, the reigning Top 14 player of the year ­– a significant achievement in a league boasting multiple superstars.

Goosen reportedly decided to leave the club to become a commercial director in his native South Africa, although one might be forgiven for wondering whether he has just had enough of the oval game in the city of romance and may continue playing elsewhere. For a palate more familiar with slabs of grilled wildebeest and dried biltong, perhaps the delicate steak tartare or slippery escargot tipped Goosen over the edge.

Either way, it poses the question as to why it comes as a shock when professional sportspeople decide to hang up their boots or leotards to pursue alternative careers.

England prop Alex Corbisiero, who has been out of rugby for a year now, originally stated that his intention was to take a sabbatical – affording himself a back-door route out of the sport without the associated fanfare and incomprehension.

Read more: Alex Corbisiero interview - American dream leaves former British and Irish Lion prop far from homesick

Professional sport is a more mundane and routine career than is often realised, with training repetitive and recovery periods providing adequate time for brain matter to compost. A number of variables could have driven the decision of Goosen and Corbisiero, from cultural incompatibilities to weariness or the want of a new challenge.

It should not come as a shock when a sportsperson legitimately wishes to pursue a new avenue, nor should it bring the response of Racing 92 owner Jacky Lorenzetti who labelled it an “incredible decision”, expressing his regret that a “talented young player has been misguided and abandoned professional rugby”.

Grass can be greener - just ask Lancaster and Farrell

England’s embarrassing failure at their own World Cup seems distant, with the passage of time and subsequent success healing many wounds. It must seem even longer ago for Stuart Lancaster and Andy Farrell – both of whom quickly extricated themselves to the Emerald Isle where the grass has proven to be luscious green and clover-rich. Farrell was appointed as Joe Schmidt’s defensive planner and Lancaster installed by Leinster as a senior coach at the start of the current season.

The Dubliners have only lost three games since 1 September and scored nine tries to punish a weakened Northampton 60-13 in last weekend’s Champions Cup fixture. Farrell’s Ireland were unbeaten in the autumn and must be considered serious contenders for the Six Nations.

It would seem that for both the World Cup was a substantial learning experience, from which they have emerged as more complete and improved coaches. Eventually, cream tends to rise – especially the Irish stuff.

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