Bryan Habana remembered the Bok victory over the All Blacks in Hamilton in 2009. Photo: Kim Ludbrook/EPA

JOHANNESBURG – Former star Bryan Habana believes the victory by the Springboks over New Zealand in Wellington three weeks ago could be the turning point for the team, as they now focus their attention on the end-of-year tour of Europe and the World Cup in 2019.

Irrespective of the 32-30 win for the world champions at Loftus Versfeld yesterday, Habana thinks the win achieved against the mighty All Blacks away from home – against all the odds – could be the tonic needed for the team to have a successful 2019 season, that will culminate in the World Cup in Japan.

“Let’s be honest, 2017 was a disappointing year, but there seems to be progression this season, and it appears that the players are enjoying themselves again,” said the veteran wing.

“The Boks are scoring a lot of tries, and the fact they scored the most points against the All Blacks, and it being an away game in Wellington, should not be underestimated.

“We must give credit where it is due... there are a lot of positives right now.

“We must understand (Bok coach) Rassie Erasmus is building towards the World Cup, and while results are always important, we need to keep the bigger picture in mind.

“But it gets no bigger than beating the All Blacks, but Rassie will also want some consistency now, to give the team their best chance of being successful in Japan.”

Habana added it was crucial that the Bok boss had cast his net wide this season, to find the best players to take to the World Cup.

Erasmus has used well over 30 players in his 10 Tests in charge, and tested several different combinations, especially in the back-row and midfield.

Newcomers who’ve come into the Bok picture this year include Aphiwe Dyantyi, S’bu Nkosi, Makazole Mapimpi, André Esterhuizen, Ivan van Zyl, Embrose Papier, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Travis Ismaiel, Ivan van Zyl, Marvin Orie, Jason Jenkins, Ox Nche, Akker van der Merwe and Thomas du Toit.

“Rassie has thrown the net wide, given international experience to a lot of players, and he’ll now know who he can call on in the next year, leading up to the World Cup,” said Habana.

“The core is there, and it’s been there for a while, but it’s crucial some other players have had a taste of Test rugby,” added the former winger.

“By the start of next year, he’ll have a good idea of his best 23 – a smart move on Rassie’s part.”

Habana felt the win in Wellington would boost team confidence going into the Japan-based tournament.

“Everyone is looking at New Zealand to be the title runners next year... but the Boks winning in Wellington will be incredibly important going forward,” he said.

“We also won there in 2008 and the next year, 2009, was a very successful one for us. The Boks will be a confident bunch now, and they’ll have belief that they can beat the best.

“It’s going to be tough for them in Japan, but South Africans are a resilient bunch, and they’ll believe they can go all the way.”

Habana was part of the Bok team that won the 2007 World Cup and was one of the stars of the tournament, his eight tries equalling the single-tournament record set by Jonah Lomu in 1999.

 

Sunday Independent

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