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Springboks must kick on from All Blacks triumph – Habana

Springboks must kick on from All Blacks triumph – Habana

Bryan Habana

South Africa must build on their Rugby Championship success against New Zealand as they head into a daunting schedule in the Autumn Nations Series, according to Springbok legend Bryan Habana.

The country’s all-time leading try-scorer was speaking at the launch of the Autumn Nations Series and has been impressed by the way South Africa have responded to the adversity that has been thrown their way in 2021.

The Springboks battled back from losing the first Test to see off the British & Irish Lions 2-1. And after back-to-back defeats to Australia, they came within a long-range Jordie Barrett kick of beating the All Blacks, before getting their revenge a week later when Elton Jantjies slotted a last-minute penalty.

And it is that form which they need to carry into their upcoming trio of matches against Wales, Scotland and England, beginning at Principality Stadium in Cardiff on November 6.

“There were a lot of questions asked during that Lions series, but I think the way the Springboks came out of the rugby wilderness, the mental resilience that team showed was paramount,” Habana said at the Autumn Nations Series media launch.

“They got found wanting against Australia in the countries’ second Test of the Rugby Championship, but they proved in the last game against the All Blacks that they are worthy world champions.

“We saw the Test quality of the Springboks team in that last game.

“As world champions, the expectations and standards they set are really high. They will be looking to continue the form they showed in the last game against New Zealand.

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“There will definitely be a three from three goal in place next month and they will be focusing on the first game against Wales, where they haven’t had much success over the last half a decade.”

While the Springboks edged past Wales in the semi-final of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the Welsh generally have a good recent record against South Africa.

In fact, in Cardiff Wales have won four in a row against the Springboks and Habana is expecting another close battle.

He added: “Go back over the last four or five years and the titanic battles against Wales, it has been physically won up front and I can’t see this game being much different.

“It is always a nail-biter. Wales definitely have had the upper hand in Cardiff over the last six or seven years – but the Springboks will be raring to go.”

Of course, it is not just the Springboks who Habana is keen to watch in the Autumn Nations Series, with 20 blockbuster games across the four weekends of action.

It kicks off this weekend as Scotland host Tonga and Wales take on New Zealand and having been involved in the Autumn Nations Cup in 2020, Habana believes this year’s format has the potential to win over plenty of new fans.

He said: “The Autumn Nations Series and its launch in trying to create a bit more excitement, not only with a new logo but different manners of engaging with the fans is really important. When you have some of the best teams in the world competing across 20 games, it really does add that little more in terms of viewer spectacle.

“Rugby definitely has evolved since I made my debut back in 2004. People are looking at ways of structuring things a little bit differently. I was fortunate to be involved with the Autumn Nations Cup which took place last November, that was brutally exciting, culminating in what I believe was a fantastic final where a very young French side almost did the unpredictable and cause a major upset. It added a little more spice.

“I think it brought an added sense of excitement and engagement for those watching at home on screen and the lucky 2000 who got to go to Twickenham for that final game. I’m not too sure where it goes but the Autumn Nations Series, as it has now been relaunched, in trying to create a different feeling.

“Does it build up towards a final? Does it build up to a potential winner? To bring the pragmatism around the manner in which teams compete. Last year was really great for me, if player welfare does afford it, I think it would be great to see a culmination of sorts. 20 games across the autumn is exciting.

“What really has been nice to see in terms of the relaunch of the Autumn Nations Series is that the 20 games aren’t overlapping each other, which was a major part of the past two or three decades. For fans to be able to be engaged and watch games across the course of the day, watching the various teams is a really niche offering that will hopefully attract some new rugby fans to the game, not just on the field, but off it as well.”

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