Habana relishing new leadership role with Boks

Date published: August 18 2016

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Bryan Habana is excited about his new role as vice-captain of the Springboks as South Africa prepare to face Argentina on Saturday.

The return of the 33-year-old finisher to the Bok setup is a timely boost for head coach Allister Coetzee, who has been forced to pick a relatively inexperienced team for their Rugby Championship opener in Nelspruit.

Only five players in the starting XV have more than 20 Test caps.

The shortage of experience is evident especially among the backs who only boast a collective 153 caps. Habana's inclusion, after missing out on the June series against Ireland due to his Sevens commitments, makes out 117 of those 153 caps.

"Bryan will focus on his own performance, but he will also need to be mindful of the added responsibility," Coetzee said after he named his team on Thursday. "Elton Jantjies (fly-half) must manage the backline, and Bryan must provide support."

Habana is the only player left from the previous generation of stalwarts, which included the likes of Jean de Villiers, Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez and Bismarck du Plessis. 

"This is the first time that I’m the oldest player in the squad," Habana said. "There have been a lot of jokes over the past few days, guys talking about helping me carry my wheelchair or crutches off the bus."

Habana will be a pivotal player for the Boks when they take on Argentina, a team who is always up for a fight and who beat the Springboks in South Africa last year for the first time ever.

"It’s a youthful backline, and I hope I can provide those players with a wealth of knowledge that they can take forward in future," he said.

"Argentina never lie down, they compete until the very last minute. That’s my message to the younger guys who haven’t played against Argentina before. They need to adopt a dogfight mentality from minute one to minute 85."

Habana needs one try to claim the tier-one Test record for himself. At the moment, Habana and former Wallabies wing David Campese share the milestone with 64 tries apiece.

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