Rugby: Habana worried by Wales

CARDIFF - South Africa aim to take the second step towards rugby redemption on their tour of Great Britain and Ireland when they face Wales here on Sunday (NZT).

The Springboks have looked anything but reigning world champions this year after finishing bottom of the Tri-Nations and with disappointing performances from their franchises in the Super 14 tournament.

However, a hard-fought 23-21 victory over Ireland in Dublin last week, despite the loss of several leading players, has given new determination to Peter de Villiers' team to end a disappointing season on a high with a potential `grand slam' tour against the four `Home Unions' of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England.

Wales lost 25-16 to Australia last weekend but South Africa's Bryan Habana insisted: "I don't think we are favourites for this game.

"We have had a bad year," the Springbok star wing added. "We were disappointed in ourselves during the Tri-Nations and we know we want to rectify those results and performances moving forward towards the 2011 World Cup.

"We have to do well on this tour and that means facing up to every northern hemisphere side for four weeks.

"It was a good win for us in Ireland. We let it get too close towards the end and Ronan O'Gara, in his 100th game, was probably disappointed he missed the conversion.

"It was a vital win to start the tour but we know it will be a big game on Saturday," Habana said.

"Wales are probably in the same boat as we are. They had a poor Six Nations just like we had a poor Tri-Nations. But they put up a good fight against Australia, who beat us heavily during the Tri-Nations.

"We will have to be at our best to have any chance of success."

Habana lines up against uncapped Scarlets teenager George North, one of four changes to the Wales team that lost to the Wallabies.

British and Irish Lions full-back Lee Byrne has recovered from a broken hand, allowing James Hook to revert back to centre.

Veteran flanker Martyn Williams starts at No 7 in place of injured Cardiff colleague Sam Warburton, with Wales looking to play a far more expansive game than the one they managed against Australia.

Having looked to take on the Wallabies up front, and with huge success at the scrum, Wales aim to rediscover their creative flair against South Africa in a bid to move the visitors' pack around the field.

"We changed our approach against Australia and looked to take them on up front," said Wales coach Warren Gatland.

"That is something we haven't tried before against the Tri-Nations. We will look to be more expansive and creative this week and move their forwards around the park," the New Zealander added ahead of Wales' bid to end a run of 11 straight defeats by the Springboks.

"We have plenty of experience of facing South Africa in recent years and they are always combative. They don't do anything special, but they are very direct and hard."

This will be the last time the teams meet before they come face to face in their opening game of the next year's World Cup in New Zealand.

So it is a good time for South Africa to recall a World Cup winner in centre Frans Steyn, who broke Welsh hearts at the Millennium Stadium with a trademark 50-metre penalty to clinch a 34-31 victory in June.

The former teenage prodigy of South African rugby has had a rocky relationship with de Villiers but was unavailable last week because of club commitments in France with Racing Metro, who refused to release him for a match outside the International Rugby Board's agreed `window' for November Tests.

- AFP

Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf02 at 27 Dec 2014 04:12:28 Processing Time: 503ms