Johannesburg – On Wednesday, as he stood in the hot midday sun fielding questions about the history of Ellis Park and 1995 and an incredible Super 14 victory back in 2007, Bryan Habana paused briefly and smiled a little when asked about the threat of that “attacking All Blacks”, using the history of the 2013 Castle Rugby Championship to answer.
“I’m not too sure about how attacking a team the All Blacks are in terms of stats,” said Habana.
“We’ve both scored 19 tries each. They have a fantastic ‘suffocate and strangle’ policy in terms of their kicking game. I think out of the 124 opportunities they’ve had to run out of their own half in this Rugby Championship they’ve only run five times. Perception has to be put in place.”
The perception is that the Springboks have it all to do on Saturday at Ellis Park against the No1 team in the world. Heyneke Meyer smiled when asked about scoring “four tries”, but Habana did not shy away from the question.
“We all understand that there is a lot more at stake than there was last week (against Australia at Newlands),” said Habana.
“Score four tries, get a bonus-point victory and possibly become champions is something we’ve all been thinking about.”
Habana, who will play in his 92nd Test this weekend, has seen many incarnations of New Zealand in his time and agreed that the 2013 All Blacks are up there with the best of them.
“The All Blacks are not the No1 team in the world for nothing. They are a fantastic team.
“What they are fantastically good at is when they get an opportunity to counter attack they are fantastic. When they get the opportunity to put teams under pressure in their own half, they capitalise on those opportunities immensely well.
“We have to make sure that not only our defence, but our attack is vastly improved. So that not only are we playing in the right areas of the field, we are putting them under pressure on attack as well. When you have guys like Aaron Cruden and Israel Dagg, who have fantastic kicking games, you are going to be chased around the park a bit. It’s not only going to be a tactical game, it’s going to be a clever game as well. We have to think quite a bit about them.”
Habana will not be thinking too much on another piece of history on Saturday. He needs one more try to equal Christian Cullen’s record of 16 Tri-Nations/Rugby Championship tries.
“Records are always there to be broken and I think Christian did his in a lot less time than I have,” said Habana.
In 2007, at Loftus, the Bulls produced one of the greatest wins of Super Rugby history by beating the Reds 92-3 to earn a home semi-final.
Habana was asked if he and Meyer would tap into that history for inspiration for this weekend. It was different, he said. The Reds of 2007 were a mess of an outfit; the All Blacks are the No1 team in the world. Meyer, he agreed, does have a history of creating history. Saturday is a massive match.
He has played in and watched many. There was the magical year of 2007, the 2009 Lions tour decider at Loftus and he was in the stands at Ellis Park when Nelson Mandela handed the World Cup to Francois Pienaar.
“These are the sort of games that make this journey an unbelievable one. I can’t wait to get out there and experience it.”