Ha­bana eyes another Twick­ers fairy tale

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - ASHFAK MO­HAMED

IT WAS a mis­er­able night for Spring­bok rugby in Dublin last Satur­day, and what made a 2915 de­feat to Ire­land even more dif­fi­cult to di­gest was the fact that they had beaten the mighty All Blacks in their pre­vi­ous game.

It was a harsh re­al­ity check for Heyneke Meyer’s team, and now the pres­sure has been ramped up for Satur­day’s mas­sive show­down with Eng­land at Twick­en­ham.

“We were pretty dis­ap­pointed with where we were last week, after – I be­lieve – be­ing on an up­ward curve. But some­times get­ting thrown back to re­al­ity pretty quickly is never a bad thing,” Bryan Ha­bana, one of the se­nior states­men in the team, said yes­ter­day.

“We had a good, hard look at our­selves and where we are as in­di­vid­u­als and as a team, and where we want to go to. And we get an op­por­tu­nity to now play against an Eng­land team that proved they can mix it up with the best last week, against the No 1 team in the word (New Zealand), and we will try to rec­tify last week’s de­feat and per­for­mance.”

Ha­bana was his usual busy self on de­fence against Ire­land, track­ing back to help his team­mates, while also fear­lessly con­test­ing the break­downs. But there wasn’t a cou­ple of those mag­i­cal bursts up the mid­dle as he was well-marked by the likes of Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions wing Tommy Bowe and full­back Rob Kear­ney.

But per­haps the Toulon strike-run­ner will be in­spired by the fact that he will run out on Satur­day at one of his favourite grounds, where he made his Test de­but and scored a try with his first touch of the ball in 2004 – a mo­ment he de­scribed yes­ter­day as a “fairy tale”.

Ha­bana doesn’t like to be out of the ac­tion, and he feels that the Boks aren’t go­ing to be bogged down this week­end by the pres­sure of putting down a marker for next year’s World Cup, which will take place in Eng­land.

“I ac­tu­ally wasn’t part of the team in 2012, but since 2006, it has been an en­joy­able time for the Spring­boks in London (where they haven’t lost since).

“But I don’t think that his­tory will play a part on Satur­day at all. Both teams suf­fered de­feats at the week­end. If you are go­ing to rely on his­tory to win you a game, you’ll be found want­ing,” he said.

“It is a spe­cial place to play rugby, and you get over 80 000 peo­ple at Twick­ers, most of them singing Swing Low. It is a fan­tas­tic at­mos­phere. Whether win­ning or los­ing is an im­por­tant marker in de­ter­min­ing whether you will win the World Cup, that’s un­de­cided for me.

“In 2006, we got a record ham­mer­ing against Aus­tralia in Bris­bane, 49-0, and peo­ple said we had no chance of win­ning the World Cup. But 11 months later, John Smit was hold­ing up that lit­tle cup they call Bill.

“We def­i­nitely let our­selves down last week­end, in cer­tain ar­eas where we were im­prov­ing dra­mat­i­cally – the break­down is a spe­cific area we worked on un­der Richie Gray pretty hard over the last few years.

“Our kick­ing game wasn’t where it should be, and dis­ci­pline and field po­si­tion cost us a few points. If we want to take the next step and move for­ward, we need to do well in the ar­eas that we bat­tled with last week.”

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