Habana’s last stab at pipping Lomu

2015-10-29 21:22
Bryan Habana (AP)

Cape Town – The law of averages, as much as anything, suggests Bryan Habana still has a fair chance of becoming standalone record-holder for most tries in World Cup history.

READ: Springboks' Test record against Argentina

READ: 15 stats and facts - Boks v Argentina

READ: Bok record holders at the Olympic Stadium

Yet to register a further dot-down beyond the pool phase of RWC 2015 - after a productive five during that period – the 32-year-old Springbok wing has one last opportunity to move ahead of juggernaut All Blacks icon Jonah Lomu and claim the landmark as his own, by getting to 16 tries or more in the bronze playoff against Argentina on Friday (22:00 SA time).

He and Lomu are currently locked together on 15 World Cup tries, so a magical, solitary visit to the whitewash would do the trick nicely at London’s Olympic Stadium, where Habana will almost certainly be playing his last ever RWC game, in his third tournament.

Neither man should forget that Australia’s in-form Drew Mitchell looms rather large on the outside, as the 31-year-old stands on 14 and has one further World Cup chance himself – in the final against New Zealand – to advance his own tally.

That said, the RWC showpiece is traditionally extremely light on activity in the try column.

There may be a better chance of more space and attacking opportunity being available in the less pressured Boks v Pumas clash, but Habana bagging one more at least may well depend on how far his team depart from their ultra-conservative game-plan in both the quarter-final and surrendered semi.

A glance at his overall Test record tells you that Habana registers a try almost every other game for South Africa: he boasts 64 in all, from 116 Test caps.

So his “drought” in the successive knockout matches against both Wales and New Zealand suggests he is due to score against the Pumas.

Additionally in his favour, for the statistically-minded, is the fact that his strike rate against Argentina is more than a try every other game: he sports seven from 11 career appearances against them, including a brace on one occasion.

That was in the semi-final of his memorable maiden RWC, in 2007, when the Boks won 37-13 at Stade de France before going on to claim the Webb Ellis Cup.

Seven tries from 11 matches against the Pumas is decent going, when you consider that against a team like the All Blacks, Habana’s scoring rate predictably drops to seven from 23 matches.

He is also on a healthy enough streak against Argentina this particular year, when you bear in mind that he dotted down once in each of the Durban (lost) and Buenos Aires (won) meetings.

Habana’s best ever day on the try sheet thus far came against Samoa at the 2007 World Cup, when he crossed four times, while he boasts hat-tricks against each of Australia (Pretoria, 2012) and more recently the United States at this tournament – at the very Olympic Stadium where Friday’s game takes place.

So from an omen point of view, many signs point to Habana signing off the RWC stage – and perhaps even broader Springbok one, too? -- as lone holder of the tries record.

Don’t bet against his team-mates doing everything they possibly can to set him up for a trademark dive over the line ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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