New role for Habana

A injury to Zane Kirchner could see Bryan Habana fill the void at fullback.

Kirchner limped off in the 11th minute of the Bulls’ match against the Crusaders with an injury to his buttock muscle.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke told keo.co.za that the medical staff would have a clearer understanding of the extent of the injury on Monday.

‘I’m very worried about Zane. We’re hoping that scans don’t show a tear because obviously he is an important player for us, he is making good progress but at this stage he only had a 50% chance of playing,’ he told keo.co.za

Ludeke said they wouldn’t call up a player to the squad as cover for Kirchner, instead confirming that Habana, who shifted from wing to fullback in Christchurch, would start at 15 if Kirchner failed to recover in time for their match against the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday.

‘I thought Bryan was fantastic at fullback against the Crusaders,’ Ludeke said.

‘In our view he is an all rounder who has the skills to fill a couple of positions in the backline. Importantly, he is happy to play at fullback if he needs to, so that’s really helpful from a coach’s perspective.

‘He asked big questions of the Crusaders at times and there was a 10-minute period where they didn’t kick on him because they were wary of his potential to cause damage on the counter-attack. He’s a special player who is capable of doing special things from fullback. We’re hoping Zane is OK, but we’re not worried about slotting Bryan in there if we need to.’

Habana, white-hot in 2007, has struggled to regain the form that saw him crowned IRB Player of the Year in that year, scoring just five times in the 2008 Super 14 and just once in 2009. The positional shift will allow him more time and space to operate in which could be beneficial, particularly since there is a growing belief that he has lost the extra yard of pace that made him the pre-eminent winger in world rugby.

Whether his kicking game is good enough remains to be seen, while his positional play, ability under the high ball and anticipation will be tested by a Tahs side who are likely to kick often.

Reflecting on their 16-13 defeat in Christchurch, Ludeke said their lack of composure in the final 10 minutes, vital turnovers, poor decision making in good positions and an indifferent performance at the set phases cost them their second tour victory.

He predicted that the Tahs would pose a different challenge to the Crusaders in that they they would be a lot more structured in their approach. Ludeke identified dominance at the breakdown as being crucial to victory. The Tahs were strong in that facet of play against the Stormers, with Phil Waugh leading their ground level assault.

‘Our ball carriers have to be a lot more accurate than they were against the Crusaders. We spilled the ball 10 times in contact and when we did go to ground we weren’t able to get speed in our recycle, which is crucial to the way we play.

‘But that won’t be the only focus for us,’ he continued. ‘The battles will be the similar to what we faced against the Crusaders. Our set pieces need to be on point so we establish a good platform for attack, our tactical kicking needs to improve and our defence has to be very, very good because the Waratahs are a quality outfit.’

By Ryan Vrede