Rugby

Player exodus could help Boks at the World Cup, says Bryan Habana

26 May 2019 - 00:06 By LIAM DEL CARME


SA's player exodus after this year's Rugby World Cup (RWC) may yet work in their favour. It is a view soaked in paradox but it's one that record-breaking Springbok wing Bryan Habana is happy to air.
"We have a big exodus of players after the tournament and I get the feeling they will want to go out on a high," said Habana.
Despite what he called a disappointing last end-of-year tour, he believes the Springboks will command respect at the global spectacle.
"The win (over the All Blacks) in Wellington last year showed; none of the other sides will want to play a Springbok side that clicks on the day."
He stressed, however, that the Boks need to down the All Blacks in their opener in Yokohama.
"No team has won a World Cup having lost their opening game," reminded Habana, who will be at the event as ambassador for Mastercard and commentating for ITV.
He believes the race to the Webb Ellis Cup will be one of the most open yet.
"It is a competition where any of the top five countries can win it. If we had this conversation at the start of 2019, Ireland would have been the team to beat.
"However, if they have one or two injuries in key positions - at nine or 10 or their loose forward combination - that could change things.
"Wales have played a championship-winning brand of rugby over the last 12 months. They play a brand of rugby that can potentially win them a RWC.
"New Zealand, of course, will go in as favourites. Having said that, we saw in 2015 that Australia, who didn't have a great build-up, reached the final. Argentina played well too in 2015.
"Because the World Cup is in Japan, teams are going to experience things they have not been exposed to before. Someone like Eddie Jones, who has real background knowledge of the logistical demands in Japan, potentially has a bit of an advantage."Habana, who after retiring from the game has opened a sports marketing agency and completed a business management course through the Toulouse Business School, said we are unlikely to see four semifinalists from the southern hemisphere.Although he hasn't watched a lot of Super Rugby, he is off to the final as Vodacom's official tour guide on their Red Client tour."I think my official title is tour guide more than ambassador. I was fortunate enough to win two Super Rugby titles with the Bulls and experience quite a bit of Super Rugby, and travelling to places like Christchurch helps," he said about his role.He agrees the Crusaders are the clear favourites but that the picture may become opaque over the coming weeks."The Crusaders have had a bit of a lull over the last few weeks and they've apparently had a few off-the-field incidents as well. We don't know whether a guy like Richie Mo'unga is going to be found guilty of the charges. He has been really good at 10. If you take him out of the mix, the Crusaders are a little different. A lot of people are expecting them to host the final but it is not a foregone conclusion."He said the South African conference is too tough to call."We will be travelling via Dubai but, of course, we don't know where the final will take place. We could also have a final in SA in, say, Pretoria or Durban. We also have a resurgent Stormers."Then there are the Jaguares, who could host the final as well. It really is a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity for the clients who are going to go along. To pack your bag for Dubai not knowing where you are going to end up is great. I haven't been to a Super Rugby final for a while, whether as a player or spectator. I'm looking forward to this one."

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