Bryan Habana: Springboks’ Japan connections may provide World Cup edge

MONACO – Springbok great Bryan Habana believes South African rugby’s love affair with Japan might be a blessing in disguise at this year’s World Cup. 

Speaking at the 2019 Laureus World Sports Awards, Habana said some of the Springboks’ experience of playing conditions in the Land of the Rising Sun could be an ace up South Africa’s sleeve at the quadrennial rugby showpiece. 

“What could potentially count in our favour is the number of players going to the World Cup that ply their trade in Japan,” Habana said.

“You have guys like Duane Vermeulen, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende and Eben Etzebeth that know those conditions. 

“They know what it is like from a logistical point of view, from a mindset point of view, and not only playing in Japan, but also being successful.”

Habana announced his retirement from professional rugby in April 2018, calling an end to a career that spanned more than 15 years.

The 2007 World Cup winner said he believed Rassie Erasmus’ team had the personnel to once again lift the Webb Ellis Cup.

“Guys that may not necessarily have been well known on the international scene like Aphiwe Dyantyi and Sbu Nkosi, who was to me one of the shining lights,” Habana said.

“You have Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux who everyone 18 months ago said were done and dusted for the Springbok set-up playing a crucial role in how the team showed more promise in 2018.

“To win World Cups, you need about five to six players with 50 Test caps, and you need about the same players that can lead that side, which we have.”

Habana said South Africa had a strong leadership group, with captain Siya Kolisi leading the charge, supported by players such as Handré Pollard and Vermeulen.

“When the Springboks click and we saw that in Wellington last year after a disappointing two years in 2016 and 2017, it just showed what the potential is,” Habana said.

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