Rugby

Habana hails Williams

2011-12-03 07:02
Bryan Habana (AP)

Cardiff - Springbok great Bryan Habana has paid tribute to Shane Williams ahead of his fellow wing's final appearance for Wales and hopes his old rival can finish with a flourish against Australia.

Saturday's match against the Wallabies at the Millennium Stadium will be the 34-year-old Williams's 87th and final Test for Wales before international retirement, although he is set to continue at club level with the Ospreys.

Habana, who has played against both Wales and British and Irish Lions sides featuring Williams, believes his familiar foe could still be a Test threat after seeing him in action again during the Springboks' nailbiting 17-16 pool win over the Welsh at the recent World Cup in New Zealand.

"I have huge respect for Shane and it is so sad he is finishing. The way he was dancing around in the World Cup it was like he was 19!," 2007 World Cup winner Habana told Friday's Western Mail.

Habana, who has bagged 40 tries in 74 Tests for South Africa, knows just how dangerous the side-stepping Williams can be, having seen him score tries during Wales's tour of South Africa in 2008.

And he also witnessed the Welshman bounce back from the disappointment of being left out of the first two Lions Tests a year later to score two tries in a winning finale for the tourists, albeit the Springboks won the series 2-1.

"He proved his worth in 2008 and gave South Africa a torrid time and beat me on the inside on one occasion," said Habana.

"We then became room-mates on the Barbarians tour of Australia in 2008.

"I found that Shane is a very humble person off the field and always very professional in everything that he does.

"The last Lions Test in South Africa where he scored his two tries proved his worth when a lot of people were criticising him and saying he was past his sell-by date."

Wales assistant coach Rob Howley, speaking at a news conference on Friday, was in no doubt about Williams's worth.

"The players who have played with him over the last 11 years have been fortunate to play with one of the greatest players to play rugby union.

"He is not 6ft 4in or 15 stone but Shane has always found a way to create havoc in opposition defences and we have all been fortunate to play with him," the former Wales scrum-half added.

Saturday's match though is about more than Williams for Wales.

Their last 15 Tests against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa have produced just one victory.

Meanwhile Wales's overall record against the Tri Nations in rugby union's 16 years as a professional sport reads three wins, one draw and 41 defeats - figures that need to change if they are to become a serious world force.

Wales were just a goal-kick away from beating the Springboks at the World Cup and rallied before losing 21-18 to Australia in the third place playoff.

"The big thing for Wales is they learn from the experiences of near misses," said Habana.

"Hopefully, Wales can put it to bed and claim the scalp (against Australia). Shane deserves that."

And Howley stressed: "We need to beat a southern hemisphere side and we want Shane to be a big part of that."

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