Habana eyes another Twickers fairy tale
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.”