Bryan Habana (Gallo)
London - South Africa's hat-trick try hero
Bryan Habana warned the Springboks are getting stronger with every game as he
celebrated a 64-0 Rugby World Cup thrashing of the United States on Wednesday.
Habana's second-half treble saw him equal
Jonah Lomu's record of 15 World Cup tries as South Africa booked their
The 2007 World Cup winner was on the field
as the Springboks were beaten 34-32 by Japan in their opening Pool B match.
But he expressed pride at the way in which
South Africa bounced back with wins over Samoa, Scotland and the United States,
conceding just one try, to top Pool B.
"We took a bit of a tumble that first
week against Japan, so the last three weeks have been important as to how we've
responded," said Habana.
"We've raised the intensity and
physicality, week on week."
The Springboks were only 14-0 up at
half-time, thanks to centre Damien de Allende's maiden international try and a
penalty try off a scrum.
But the second half saw South Africa score
eight tries, including Habana's treble, as they added 50 more points.
"The first half we couldn't get going
and made one or two errors, but the second-half performance was polished as
I've been involved in with a Bok team," said Habana, a veteran of 114
"As nice as it is to score tries, we
can be really proud of our defensive effort," added Habana, who has helped
French club Toulon win the last two European Cups.
"To allow only one try in three World
Cup games was unbelievably exceptional."
South Africa now face a quarter-final with
the losers of Saturday's Pool A clash between Australia and Wales and Habana
said: "The hard work really starts now."
Habana could have beaten Lomu's record but,
with 13 minutes left, botched what would have been his fourth try with a
"Fluffing an opportunity to score a
try at any time is never ideal," said Habana.
"But equalling Jonah Lomu's record is
a truly humbling fact.
"The way he changed the game, the way
he gave rugby back something that no-one ever thought was possible and the way
he became a global superstar, the first real global superstar that the game as
ever seen, is for me a massive privilege and I'm honoured to be able to call
him a legend."
South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer added:
"I am so proud of Bryan, as a player and human.
"He is a great ambassador for South
Africa, has peaked at the right time and we need him."
South Africa captain Fourie du Preez, in the
Springbok side when Habana made his Test debut in 2004, said the flyer's eye
for the try-line had been apparent right from the start of his international
"Since Bryan's first appearance, he
has been an unbelievable finisher. He is always in the right place at the right
time," the scrumhalf said.
Wednesday's match was the first time a team
had failed to score at this World Cup but US coach Mike Tolkin,who made 12
changes, blamed a schedule which sees his side having to play Japan in their
final pool match on Sunday.
"I am very frustrated and we are
certainly not alone," he said. "It is hard to take when you have to
make a line-up based on a few days rest and I am sure Rugby World Cup will look
at this after the tournament."