fast little loans
Cape Town – The magic is really back in Bryan Habana’s game – and Western Province are hoping to finally give him enough ball and space to be a match-winner in Saturday’s crucial Currie Cup clash against the Cheetahs at Newlands.
It has been an indictment on the Stormers’ defence-based gameplan that one of the world’s finest wings of the last decade has had to be reduced to chasing kicks most of the time in Super Rugby, or having to look for work all around the field, mainly on defence, to be involved in the game.
Habana has simply not been utilised well enough by the Cape team since his arrival in 2010, and it has been more his own hard work that saw him still make an impact at Super Rugby level despite his issues with the Springboks in 2010 and 2011.
But he has taken his Stormers form into the Test arena this year, which saw him score that magnificent try against the All Blacks in Dunedin. It was poetry in motion: he ranged up behind Francois Louw, who had stumbled at the lineout, received the pass and burst through two tackles before chipping the ball over Julian Savea’s head, with the ball bouncing perfectly into his hands for an astonishing touchdown.
It was one of those moments only Habana could produce, and it took his Bok record try tally to 47 in 83 Tests, following the hat trick against the Wallabies at Loftus and yet another five-pointer against New Zealand last week at Soccer City. He scored in five of the six Rugby Championship games, and has an overall strike-rate of a try in less than every two matches …
Now, despite a huge workload for both the Stormers and Boks this year, Habana is back for more, hoping to win his first title with WP since moving from the Bulls at the end of 2009. WP backline coach Robbie Fleck is eager to see what the 29-year-old will come up with tomorrow at Newlands.
“Bryan showed that return to form in the Super 15, and whether it was at centre or wing, the guy was just working harder and harder on his game, and he started to perform better and better. He took it through to the England series, and then obviously on tour with that try against the All Blacks and a wonderful performance against Australia at Loftus,” Fleck said on Thursday.
“He is playing with real confidence again and is expressing himself. I would like to think, even in terms of the way we are playing in the Currie Cup, it would suit him. Hopefully he would get a bit more freedom and space than he got in the Super 15, especially with the way that we’ve been playing in the Currie Cup. It would be exciting to see how he performs. He brings massive enthusiasm and confidence to the team, and hopefully that rubs off on everybody else.”
But it won’t only be the Habana Show for Province on Saturday. Fleck will be able to call on two Bok centres in captain Jean de Villiers and No 13 Juan de Jongh, and it is the latter who will be determined to prove to national coach Heyneke Meyer that he should get more opportunities at Test level.
“I’m extremely excited to see Juan de Jongh play. The last time he played for us was against the Lions at Ellis Park, and he cut the Lions to pieces with the new way that we are playing,” Fleck said.
“Jean hasn’t trained, but it’s massively important to have a guy with his leadership and playing ability. He just brings that calmness, and a steadfast approach to the team. He would be able to make good decisions on the field, so with his experience and Jouba’s (De Jongh) enthusiasm to just have a go, it’s exciting to have them back.”
These top Boks will have two relatively inexperienced players on their inside in halfback pair Nic Groom and Demetri Catrakilis, but both have had solid Currie Cup campaigns this year, with Groom in particular enjoying the greater freedom to try things within the WP set-up.
While Province are overwhelming favourites, the Cheetahs have won big games at Newlands before, and as recently as last year’s corresponding league fixture – a 34-20 triumph. Fleck says the man to watch will be new backline sensation Raymond Rhule.
“Fantastic player, great player. We showed a lot of interest in him early on, and he is an unbelievable player for a youngster in the Currie Cup. We looked at him, and he has definitely been on everyone’s list. But the Cheetahs were quick to sign him on their books as he came through their structures,” Fleck said of the Ghanaian-born Baby Bok star.
“He’s got pace to burn and loves to have a go. Surprisingly, he did quite well at 13 as well. He’s a player of genuine ability, and he’s definitely someone we need to be wary of. With their wide, wide game they play, he will play a big role in that by coming off his wing, and he will chase their kicks.
“I think he is out-and-out the quickest player in the Currie Cup, if not in the whole of South African rugby. He is definitely one of the real dangers for the Cheetahs.”
Western Province: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (capt), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Don Armand, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff. Bench: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Brok Harris, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Jebb Sinclair, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Marcel Brache, 22 Gio Aplon.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Francois Uys, 6 Hendro Scholtz, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Adriaan Strauss (capt), 1 Marcel van der Merwe. Bench: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Ross Geldenhuys, 18 Waltie Vermeulen, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Philip Snyman, 22 Rayno Benjamin.
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan. Kickoff: 5.05pm. TV: SS1/SS HD1.
FINAL LEAGUE FIXTURES
Durban: Sharks v Griquas (7.10pm).
Newlands: Western Province v Cheetahs (5.05pm). Johannesburg: Lions v Blue Bulls (7.10pm).