Top 14 side Racing 92 will surely be feeling extremely aggrieved today as rumours have begun to spread about the retirement of their South African star Johan Goosen and the potentially explosive motive behind his shock retirement announcement last week.
Having been voted the Top 14 Player of the Year for 2015/16, Goosen helped the Paris-based club to league honours and the Champions Cup final and featured strongly during South Africa’s November tests.
At 24, the versatile full-back/fly-half had a very bright future ahead of him. Then, out of the blue late last week, he announced his immediate retirement from the game in order to take up a commercial director position back home in South Africa.
Following the announcement, Racing president Jacky Lorenzetti released a somewhat incredulous statement on the club website.
“Goosen, whose contract was overwhelmingly re-structured a year ago, now claims to be free in an incredible way. He has announced today that he has taken the incredible decision to end his playing career, to return to South Africa for a strong role as a commercial director.
“We regret that such a talented player has gone astray and decided to abandon professional rugby as it seems obvious that the role of commercial director is incompatible with high level sport.
“We wish to add that Racing 92 has always strongly supported Johan Goosen both morally and financially.
“And while it has unfortunately proved in recent times that there is a certain lack of vis-à-vis between the player and his coaches and more generally of all members of the club and its fans, we hope it quickly becomes aware that compliance with a contract like that of a given word is the basis of all human and professional relationships.
“Naturally, Racing 92 reserve the right to give such conduct all appropriate legal actions both towards Johan Goosen as those who advise him.”
Today, in the mother and father of all twists, it is being reported via numerous channels, including Gloucestershire Live and French sports outlet Midi Olympique, that Goosen has been in talks with Mohed Altrad about a potential move to the English Premiership and Gloucester.
Partira ? Partira pas ? https://t.co/yeTKiZJACS
— Midi Olympique (@midi_olympique) December 19, 2016
Altrad, who owns Montpellier, is currently in talks to secure a majority shareholding in the English club and wants Goosen to head up his squad.
Because the South African announced his retirement, LNR (French National Rugby League) rules mean he cannot play in France for 18 months. However, these rules do not stretch across the narrow English channel, where he would be free to secure gainful employment with no legal repercussions from Racing 92.
Whether there is any truth to this rumour or not will surely be made clear in due time but it does throw up questions about loyalty and morals which could set a worrying precedent if Goosen does indeed change his mind about retiring.
Surely World Rugby will act swiftly to ensure this kind of contract breaking loophole cannot be exploited again. However, at this time Goosen remains retired and if this is how he stays it will certainly be regarded as a loss to both Racing and South Africa Rugby.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena
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