Vultures circle over Habana

2010-08-25 22:30

JJ Harmse

Pretoria – Will Bryan Habana be back to his best on his favourite hunting ground against one of his regular victims on Saturday?

Put differently: Can the most experienced wing in the history of Springbok rugby become the lone record-holder of 39 Test tries for South Africa and also deliver the kind of performance that can chase away the vultures circling over him?

It would have been unheard of a season or so ago to talk about Habana’s possible omission, but this week the general feeling on the blogs, websites and among experts has been that the 27-year-old should be axed and that Gio Aplon should play ahead of him.

Habana’s strike rate with tries is not what it should be anymore and the past week against the All Blacks his rush defence cost the Boks a try against the All Blacks.

There are now questions about his genuine value and contribution to the team. If Habana no longer scores tries, what is he doing? The lack of tries shines the spotlight on the defensive lapses.

Former Springbok wing Pieter Hendriks believes Habana’s confidence is gone as a result of his defensive style of rushing inside.

“He will still beat any opponent in a one-on-one situation, but when last did he get such an opportunity,” asked Hendriks.

“I think the fact that he is caught in no man’s land so often on defence is undermining his confidence. In the beginning he was excellent at shooting up and intercepting balls, but opponents have done their homework and it’s now working against him.”

His advice is simple.

“Forget about that technique. Work hard at staying on your opponent’s inside and take your opportunities in normal game situations. His team-mates should also do more to get Bryan in space. He remains one of the deadliest finishers in world rugby,” said Hendriks.

The fact that Habana is scoring less tries also means that the pressure is increasing.

He scored 30 tries in the first half of his Test career – 12 times in 2005 and 13 times in 2007. Since then the tries have been less frequent.

In 2008 he scored only twice, in 2009 four times and this year he has scored two - a try in each of the games against Italy in Witbank and East London respectively.

His strike-rate against the Wallabies, however, is excellent and he has scored five tries in 11 games against them.

Add to that that he scored an excellent try on the same field in the second Test against the British and Irish Lions and it’s clear that Habana is a player for the big occasion at Loftus Versfeld.

Habana is playing in his 65th Test and is used to pressure, but this time it’s different because there are calls for his head.

Habana has scored tries against the following teams (number of games in parentheses):

Argentina 2 (3), Australia 5 (11), British and Irish Lions 1 (3), England: 6 (8), Fiji 0 (1), France 4 (6), Ireland 1 (2), Italy 3 (4), New Zealand 3 (14), Samoa 4 (1), Scotland 3 (4), Tonga 0 (1), Uruguay: 2 (1), USA 2 (1), Wales 2 (5).


  • Inky - 2010-08-25 22:39

    Time to go. Easily the worst player in the Bok side last weekend. He is even being lectured at length by his team-mates on the field. Let him fight back for his place in the team

  • TP - 2010-08-25 22:55

    1ST TO GO MUST BE JOHN SMIT. Ollie was 100% correct and the only one with balls to say it in public. If you take all the good things Smit did in all suoer 14 and test matches it will be a 5 minute video. If you take all his f,ups and put it in a training video what a hooker should not be doing, you will have a series, as it will be hours of material...pity the rugby programs are to scared to do it.

  • intercepting - 2010-08-25 22:57

    Yep, his days is over. sorry Bryan. AB scored a try after he went for the intercept!

  • Henk - 2010-08-25 23:10

    Hy was goed toe hy nog 'n Bul was !!

  • Addie - 2010-08-25 23:11

    It is a fact that you will struggle when the team struggle. When last did the Boks put 50 points on any of the Big 5?. A wing will only score given the space and opportunity. Habana is only human. If you want someone to score tries from impossible situations ....................... Call on Superman !!!

  • Comrade - 2010-08-25 23:12

    Habana was simply terrible last weekend. A mere whisper of his former self. I could see no justification (none, WHATSOEVER), for his inclusion in the starting VX.

  • GCW - 2010-08-25 23:30

    NZ perspective: BH has simply lost confidence since he came into the Springbok environment. He was as dangerous as ever playing for WP however the lack of any ball off 1st or 2nd phase means he is chasing scraps. Look at the coaching setup for responsibility here.

  • William Shakespeare - 2010-08-25 23:39

    Leaving the Bulls was a terrible mistake. What a crying shame.

  • Tarintino - 2010-08-25 23:46

    You all have lost the plot, Habana played a good game on Sat. Yes, he didn’t get the chance to play the sort of game he is famous for but if you contrast the performance of Habana vs. let’s say, Victor Matfield for example – before you start spewing words of hatred at me think back to last week’s game – V.M. played as if he was auditioning for lethargic magazine. They author said it best – the rest of the team needs to play in such a way that it opens up the playing field and allows a player such as Habana and even Aplon for that matter to use and apply their skills. This is a case of “let’s see who we can blame” and of course the players are the obvious target but we should be looking at the Management, Management should lead from the front but in this case it seems they still have their heads buried in the sand due to the poor season the Boks have been having – come on, get over it and lets start playing the Beautiful Game Again!!!

  • mike - 2010-08-25 23:55

    Last time he had a spell like this the Bulls dropped hin and it worked, WeePee and the Boks need to do the same. He will be back but he needs to go eat some humble pie first!

  • bulawayo-based-bok - 2010-08-26 00:06

    question is whether guys like these can step up in the future: Mvovo / Van den Heever / Basson / Engelbrecht /Killian / Snyman /Mastriet

  • Milder - 2010-08-26 01:22

    Habanna has alwasy been over rated. Let's face it as are most wings in this country. Just ask Pieter Hendriks. Even a bad wing 10 years ago could do a proper side step, kick the ball while running etc. Habanna, a Sprinbok wing can't even run with the ball under the right arm! What a joke!

  • fanatic-fish-hoek-fan - 2010-08-26 01:28

    What complete nonsense.If they want to single out players for that loss then they must start with John Smit and axe him first..... Its not Habanas foult that our backline doesn't play the ball wide enough... Either all the vultures say that he's not looking for work,or he's not covering his channel...Its not in our game-plan to use the wings regularly and if they do get ball they have no space to run.

  • @Addie - 2010-08-26 01:43

    Or call on Schalk Burger ... hehe

  • O Please!! - 2010-08-26 01:51

    The only way that a wing can prove himself is when he gets the ball. The Boks is k@k and Habana don’t get any ball. He is pissed off playing with scraps and with useless players in the team. Easy to say he is useless. Typical dumb SA supporters who want to use performances by players in the CCup to compare with Bok players. How fkn stupid are these people? If a player plays in a winning team he will shine but to shine in a team that loose by 20+ points is basically impossible, especially for the outside backs. Nothing wrong with Habana or JP. Aplon can be very effectively used as an impact player for the Boks. Funny that old JJ don’t push for idiot vd Heever to replace Habana. Funny how the BB supporters and people like JJ criticized Habana now that he has left Pretoria. BOERPAMPOENE!

  • Habana fan - 2010-08-26 02:37

    I agree that he should change his defence technique and hopefully his defence can improve. But to get his confidence back all that needs to be done is for him to be given space to burn some gas out wide, that is what he is good in, beating his opposing players on a one on one basis and beating them with pace. When last did we actually see Habana go full throttle down the touch line like in Perth a few season ago or against Samoa in 2007? A worldclass wing can only shine if the rest of the backline especially the inside backs can perform well.

  • Skylark - 2010-08-26 03:32

    Time for John Smith to go, good leader yes i agree but thats it. His bulk isnt helping him much and effects his game. Habana needs a blowtortch under his **s.

  • Jon - 2010-08-26 03:36

    Habana's opponents --and their coaches -- have found out just how one-dimensional his play is and have worked out not only how to counter his strengths,but how to exploit his many weaknesses. His own coaches just haven't got the smarts to help him hide/overcome those weaknesses and to develop his strengths. Habana's learnt to loiter about waiting for an interception -- just like Slaptjips. Deny him those loose 50:50 passes and you've neutralised him.

  • AJ - 2010-08-26 04:58

    I am sure he must get paid 'per intercept try'. All that means is he moves off his line, cuts inside and leaves the wing exposed. It has cost us more than once now. It is selfish play. I also sympathise with him and most wings in that they sometimes never get any ball from the centers, so they often come looking for it themselves - when they should not. Aplon put in a good performance, and some good tackles too. Habana needs to up his game.

  • Andrew - 2010-08-26 05:24

    Let the man play his game. He runs up for the intercept to stop the overlaps that he has to face on his side of the field. Ask anyone who's played wing before and they will all tell you that when defending an overlap look for the intercept or tackle the man with the ball. At international level if you just tackle the man with the ball it will always lead to a try... By no means is he at his best, but he is still better than the rest and we cannot afford to drop him. And to score tries the ball has to get to him. Poor article JJ

  • Claude - 2010-08-26 05:36

    Tactics dictated by the Coaching Team count against Habana. He is not getting the ball in situations that give him the chance to score. Blame is not what is needed here but the appreciation of when and how quickly to pass. The forwards have not been getting as much ball as they did last year and the stats on how many balls, this year as opposed to last year, reach the wings when they have room to attach would be interesting. I say the Coaches have been out thought and have not been able to come up with alternative winning tactics. Time to move them on and bring in a team that is not led by somebody that has been wanting and continually embarrasses his country.

  • Robin Hood - 2010-08-26 05:38

    Pieter Hendriks knows what he's talking about. Hope the Springbok coaches are giving Brian the same mesage.

  • Ek lag vir Balsak - 2010-08-26 05:55

    The fact of the matter is that everybody predicted that his play would go down when he moved to Province and thats exactly what happenned. His days look to be numbered. He will be out of the game in 2 years, unless he starts remembering the basics and leaves this Cherry Picking attitude. Back to the grind stone. No if only the Boks could find a decent centre pair. Stormers tend to choke

  • Jawellnofine - 2010-08-26 06:01

    As I saw It Habana lost his cool, it was not "rush defense", he came out of the defensive line on his own. Teams like the AB's look for that hence the tr. Drop him, let him go back to a descent coach (Coetzee-who should be coaching the Bokke if we talk AA bt we are not!) who can help restore that confidense, and then bring him back.

  • @ Addie - 2010-08-26 06:01

    The biggest promblem is not that he is not scoring tries, it's that he is giving away tries on defence! Bring in Appels

  • Kiwi Boy - 2010-08-26 06:06

    The coaches have done their homework-Not like PdV. Habana has been worked out and is now a liability for the Boks. Thank heavens PdV is the coach because he will not drop Habana and we (All Blacks) will continue to exploit his wing. Go Habana Keep him in the team PdV Only a few more to go to his 100th!!!!!!

  • EllisPark - 2010-08-26 06:09

    Nog beter toe hy 'n Leeu was

  • martin - 2010-08-26 06:15

    All these armchair critics are one big joke. Why do they not tell us what rugby experience they had, and playing for a first side at any club does not say that you have any experience. Till such time know that all the bullshit you write year are taken for exactly that. I can clearly recall how these same assholes called for the heads of White and Smit the season before the Boks won the World Cup. So please keep us amused with your stories, it really show us how little you know about the game of rugby and even the "clown" needs clowns like you bloggers to entertain him.

  • Tjokker - 2010-08-26 06:27

    If Habana needs to go so should Spies, at least we see Hanana make mistakes, Spies was only seen at scrum downs for a big oak he really hides well during game time.

  • gasguy - 2010-08-26 06:39

    PLEEEZ If you heard the commentators mention Gio Aplon 3 times on Saturday it was alot - at least Bruan got stuck into the defence. It is not his fault if the ball never reaches him on the wing.

  • Grim - 2010-08-26 06:44

    Ollie is a has been, he is just bitter about the true things said about him in John's book.

  • whindy - 2010-08-26 06:45

    Has it occurred to all the people calling for his head, that the reason for the lack of tries is that everybody knows how good he is and marks him out of the game, plus how often does he ever get a ball in space, to even have the opportunity to score a try. So because of the lack of scoring opportunities, he has reverted to trying to get intercepts, in order to score the elusive record scoring try, anybody remember when James Small was trying to break the record, how suddenly the tries dried up. I reckon Brian will be fine once that is out of the way. I agree he stuffed up and I am sure if you were to ask him he would put his hand up and admit he is struggling. In my opinion his biggest mistake was to leave the Bulls, he got confidence there and I don’t see that at province. Just an observation.

  • Couch Potato - 2010-08-26 06:48

    It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that, Bryan Habana is not scoring tries because our backline couch is useless. When was the last time Habana got the ball from a backline move. In the 2007 RWC he equaled the record of tries scored in a world cup because Eddie Jones was the backline couch or consultant. No wing will score tries if they never get the ball. JP is also not scoring. That's why he goes for the intercept, it's the only way to get the ball.

  • Zion Pay - 2010-08-26 06:54

    Strange how the mighty has fallen and the minions come and go running. Habana would be beter off tossing balls at the robbers of his position. The "lesser Bulle" in the team, the more stable it will be with only the real horses covering the distance.

  • Pieter-sin - 2010-08-26 06:55

    JP Pieterson might not be scoring tries, but at least he knows how to defend. How many tri saving tackles has he made, as apposed to Banana. As soon as Banana thinks he's beaten, he gives up and tries to see what he looks like on the big screen. And Banana's problem is NOT a lack of confidence, him and "Tarzan tieties" Spies both think themselves to be movie stars. (very high aspirations they have - to finally be in an out-surance add)

  • STORMER - 2010-08-26 07:02

    Hey JJ - how about an article re: Vultures circling over SPIES, STEYN AND MATFIELD? They have been seriously k@k for weeks now.... I see this as one more, 'shift the attention' type of article from a man desperate to deflect any sort of negative hype over his 'little chaps' from The refugee camp, Pretoria.... Tonsils.

  • Preshan - 2010-08-26 07:04

    I think Sharks Wing Lwazi Mvovo,should be given a chance in the Green and Gold, His DAM STRONG, SUPER FAST and AND HAS VERY QUICK SIDE STEP.

  • Jacques - 2010-08-26 07:05

    I don't think Habana is to bad. I think the biggest problem he has is he doesn't get the enough and our forwards don't pull in enough players at the breakdowns to create space for our Wings on the outside and then All Habana has left to do to capture the eye of the supporter is to force an intercept try. but the moment you force an intercept you immediately lose a guy in your defense line. AND a bing bam, YOU ARE SCREWED.

  • Richard - 2010-08-26 07:06

    Bryan unfortunatly has lost his touch, it seems as if he is no longer the attacking wing he used to be but concentrates more on defence. If one HAS in include him in the team maybe move him over to the right wing and bring in a new attacking wing on the left or just replace both wings with young hungry blood. Van der heever is about the best wing this country has to offer currently, he has the size, speed and isn't just a straight liner.

  • ben - 2010-08-26 07:06

    He was famous for his intercepts. If he does not play nobody will miss him.

  • played well - 2010-08-26 07:17

    Habanna played well, he put a lot of pressure on the all blacks by chasing down the kicks, rather replace j. Smith with Bismarck and J De Villiers with Wynand Olivier then we'll be unbeatable with frans steyn back and fourie du preez back next year and hopefully h.brussouw. Our team will be ready for the worldcup.

  • @Comrade - 2010-08-26 07:22

    I think you meant XV. VX makes no sense

  • DC - 2010-08-26 07:28

    Once he left the Bulls, settled in Cape Town, he became weak. Too much of the good life.@Addie, you dont have to play in a winning team to be able to catch the ball. Last week he knocked on 3 passes,1 in a scoring position & the previous week 2 knockons.Its beens going on for a while. But our brilliant coach drops 1 of the best players last week, De Jongh. Habana must join his brother & father in the agent business now. He is past his best. The hunger is gone. Give someone else a chance.

  • DC - 2010-08-26 07:31

    From the picture above, he does not look very fit. Has he been taking lessons on keeping fit from Benni? he should be docked wages as well as it seems like he has a beerboop crossed with a V&A Waterfront belly

  • Jono - 2010-08-26 07:33

    It is clear that the Boks weakness is 90% strategic and 10 % fitness. There is huge talent in the side that is utilized. This fixation of kicking away to allow the opposition to attack is mind boggling. Keep possession, go through the phases, set the wings up in space. Defense may have won the 2007 WC but it wont win in 2011.

  • Gareth - 2010-08-26 07:37

    Habana should've been replaced by Aplon, Habana needs to find some form and confidence playing in the currie cup. Aplon had an outstanding S14 and has done nothing wrong in this 3N. Imagine if Spies had half the heart of Aplon

  • Jako - 2010-08-26 07:43


  • Piet Parow - 2010-08-26 07:47

    He is obviously battling for form so let him play a couple of Currie Cup games to regain his confidence. Form is temporary, class is permanent.

  • dropped - 2010-08-26 07:48

    ...since playing for the Stormbarians he a palooooooka... ....should be dropped from the Bok team....

  • Go Haba - 2010-08-26 07:49

    If you want to see tries get rid of Morne Steyn. Might cost boks about 9 points in missed kicks but they will gain 15 through tries. JS and Matfield will obviously resist because the running game would expose their fatigue even more.