Habana embraces new challenge
REACTION: Springbok wing Bryan Habana will have the added responsibility of guiding an inexperienced backline against Argentina in the opening round of the Rugby Championship on Saturday. Warren Fortune reports.
Habana, who missed the June series against Ireland because of his commitments with Toulon and the South African Sevens team, has a wealth of experience with 117 Springbok caps to his name and is an integral part of head coach Allister Coetzee's plans going forward, especially with the lack of experienced international backline players in the squad.
"There are a 153 caps in total [in the backline] and if you take Bryan's 117 caps away then we are sitting with 36," said Coetzee, who was addressing reporters at the team announcement on Thursday.
"It just shows how young the backline division is. He [Habana] knows he has to perform, but secondly he has got to make sure that he imparts his knowledge to that young group.
"We got Elton [Jantjies] who has to manage that backline and Bryan will be supporting him all the time.
"I think it's invaluable. You don't buy experience somewhere else. It makes life easier, it gives direction and clarity to the team and that is invaluable. That is why Bryan is here."
Habana, who was also named vice-captain for the match against Argentina, said he was excited to start this new journey with an exciting and youthful Springbok team.
"A lot of experience has left the Boks over the last eight months and it's a new journey with a new group of players who are starting a new culture," said Habana.
"It is definitely a new experience for me. It is the first time I am coming back to a Springbok group as the oldest player and the guys have been pulling out the wheelchair jokes.
"The willingness of this group of players to succeed has been really special to see from my point of view.
"I definitely know that I have to put my hand up on the field and then hopefully impart enough knowledge to a very youthful backline. Hopefully, as the journey continues I can do that and leave these guys with a wealth of knowledge that they can go on and become world beaters going forward."
Argentina will be no pushovers in Nelspruit and this was something that Habana will be getting across to his teammates ahead of the match.
"They have been a world force for a very long time. They are a side that went to the semifinals of a World Cup last year and played exceptionally well.
"Yes, they lost one or two players to the European clubs, but it is still a group of players that have achieved a lot on the bigger stage. They have beaten Australia and they have beaten South Africa at home.
"They are a side that makes every single contact or collision as tough as possible for you and they are a side that never backs down, whether it is from the first minute or 85th minute," Habana added.
By Warren Fortune, in Nelspruit