Johnson is something different
In the same way rugby coaches accuse rugby hacks of favouring perception over reality in their reports, rugby fans have a habit of writing players off based on appearances.
The greatest example of a player who should have been given more respect by the rugby public, but wasn't, is former Bulls and Springboks utility forward Danie Rossouw.
"Pakslae" was the most underrated Bok ever, based on his ability to do an equally great job at no less than three positions - lock, blindside flank and eighthman.
But mention his name and all you hear is how he didn't pass, lost the ball in contact, and how his handling was from the school of hard knock-ons.
Another player seemingly destined to be a blip in memory despite doing great work every week is Cheetahs loose forward Ashley Johnson.
Rossouw was at least appreciated by his coaches and teammates, but Johnson appears to have no such luck.
How else do you explain the lack of wailing and gnashing of teeth at his breezy announcement a month ago that he was joining English club Wasps at the end of the Super 15?
Wasps may have won six English Premiership titles and two Heineken Cups, but they're hardly a team on the up.
In finishing 11th out of 12 teams, they staved off relegation by a point this season, with a whopping 16 players jumping ship for next season.
Which begs the question: why is a player who should be making a proper push for Springbok recognition going there?
If the Lionel Mapoe under-payment saga taught us anything, it was that some animals are more equal than others in Bloemfontein.
So money may have had something to do with it, although the decision looks rash when you consider that Wasps are on the brink of bankruptcy.
There's something about Johnson that leaves the door open for others to underestimate him.
Maybe it's the ample backside, the hint of boep or that ridiculous Afro, but people just don't get that Johnson's one of the best loosies in the country.
We make a fuss about players who went to certain schools and made all the representative teams, but none of that is forthcoming when it comes to the former Paarl Gym captain, who has made every representative team from Craven Week under-13s.
He'll never have Pierre Spies' muscles, but he's every bit as effective, if not more, and is a cleverer player to boot.
A sign of his effectiveness is how he has engineered second-half comebacks for the Cheetahs all season with his hard running and tackling as an impact player for Naka Drotske.
We could ask why his role has been limited to saving a sinking ship at the Cheetahs (does anybody remember his impact in the come-from-behind win against the Hurricanes?), but that's a story for another day.
A Bob Skinstad and Schalk Burger fan growing up, the 26-year-old is a seamless mix of the skill and hardness possessed by those two.
Johnson may carry the ball with the bearing of a waiter who's about to spill a drinks order, but only Meyer Bosman can claim to be a better passer of a rugby ball among our centres.
Some may suggest that a lot of similarly punishing runners and defenders have one thing Johnson doesn't have, lineout height. But that would be ignoring that he brings something different to South African rugby - a blindside flanker and eighthman who has an awareness of time and space and can create for others as a result.
That we're letting him go freeze his bollocks off in England shows that we mistrust anything different in our rugby.