Springbok winger Bryan Habana, who needs to cross the line just once at the Rugby World Cup to become South Africa’s all time leading try scorer, is happy to forego that honor if he can otherwise contribute to a win for the defending champions this week.
The 28-year-old was top try scorer at the last World Cup — with a record-equaling eight — and is unlikely to have a better chance to reach the milestone than in tomorrow’s match against Namibia at Albany.
Tied on 38 tries with former scrumhalf Joost van der Westhuizen since June last year, Habana was recalled to the Springbok side yesterday after recovering from a knee injury.
Declaring himself “good to go” for the Pool D clash, the 2007 world player of the year said ending his try drought at international level was not top of his list of priorities.
“I’ve always said with my time at the Springboks, it’s never going to be about Bryan Habana the individual,” he said.
“It’s about what I can bring to the team. Whether that be by leadership, whether that be by scoring tries, whether that be by making cross-cover defense tackles, it’s about making a contribution,” Habana said.
“If that 39th try comes, it comes, and if the Springboks win 150-0 without me scoring a try and I’ve contributed, then I’ll be happy,” he added.
South Africa, who scraped past Wales 17-16 in their opener before putting Fiji to the sword 49-3 last weekend, have probably had to adjust their longer term planning after Ireland’s stunning upset of Australia in Pool C on Saturday.
As likely winners of Pool D, South Africa would have been expecting to face Ireland in the quarter-finals, but now are almost certain to meet the Wallabies, who beat them home and away on their way to claiming the Tri-Nations title.
“It’s great for the World Cup,” Habana said. “It’s shaken the whole thing up a little bit. It’s made the whole thing more exciting going forward.”
“We now know that if we want to have any chance of getting to the top, we’re going to have to beat some of the best teams in the world,” he said.
It’s going to be the same on the other side of the draw as well,” Habana added.
The two defeats to the Wallabies in the Tri-Nations campaign formed part of a miserable run-up to the tournament for the defending champions, which led to harsh criticism from the expectant South African public.
“There’s always going to be criticism in international rugby,” Habana said.
“The pressure we put on ourselves as a team to perform is greater than any other pressure we feel,” he added.