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Habana hails Savea as 'global superstar'

2015-10-20 18:57
Bryan Habana (Gallo)

London - Bryan Habana will go head to head with Julian Savea in the first Rugby World Cup semi-final on Saturday and the South African considers his All Black wing rival to be a "global superstar."

Savea's hat-trick of tries against France on Saturday took his tournament tally to eight - equalling the record of Habana (2007) and New Zealander Jonah Lomu (1999), with two games to come.

"I have complete respect for Julian Savea. He has been playing unbelievable rugby for three seasons now," Habana told reporters on Tuesday.

"When he first got that All Blacks jumper there were doubts about his ability but you can see the way he has come on in leaps and bounds and especially in this tournament.

"There have been comparisons with him and the great Jonah Lomu and if you look at the try-scoring feats, he went past Jonah this weekend as well."

Savea has scored 38 tries in 39 Tests since making his debut in 2012. Lomu claimed 37 in 63 games while Habana has 64 from 115 matches. Lomu and Habana lead the way with overall World Cup tries, on 14 apiece.

"He is not only physical, not only got unbelievable pace, but has improved his all-round game," Habana said of the 25-year-old who scored a classic try in Cardiff on Saturday when he smashed three successive French tacklers aside with ferocious determination to get to the line.

He also bagged a hat-trick in the previous match against Georgia, having begun his career with a treble against Ireland.

"For him to have equalled my and Jonah's number of tries in one World Cup is incredibly special and due reward for someone who has shown himself a global superstar," Habana said.

The hugely experienced Springbok winger, playing in his third World Cup, said he was hugely looking forward to facing New Zealand for the 23rd time, seeking a ninth win over his country's greatest rivals.

"To beat the number one side in the world you have to be better than your best," he said.

"Your physicality and intensity has to go 10 notches up. We understand the threat they pose but playing against the All Blacks automatically lifts that intensity 10-fold.

"Your level of wanting to prove yourself increases and it tends to bring the best out of you.

"We've been playing knockout rugby for the last six weeks but we have to go up a level after what we saw from them last week. It's going to be an epic semi-final clash."

Habana also had a word for compatriot Craig Joubert, the referee who wrongly awarded Australia the late penalty that beat Scotland in their quarter-final.

"We feel for him," he said. "We know from 2011 how the Scots are feeling. Decisions that have been taken have been under the microscope but I think the standard of referees has been high."

South Africa were beaten 11-9 by Australia in the quarter-finals four years ago with many fans upset by the performance of New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence, who said himself later that he "froze" during the game.

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