Bryan Habana says the Springboks won’t limit themselves to a kick-chase approach when they face the Wallabies on Sunday.
The Boks have favoured a conservative game plan at this tournament. Halfbacks Fourie du Preez and Morne Steyn have sought to pressure the opposition by launching the ball skywards rather than swinging it wide, a tactic that has brought the Boks success in 2009 but only mixed success in the last two seasons.
On Thursday, Habana admitted that the Boks’ recent failures in the Tri-Nations and underwhelming showings at this World Cup were down to poor application of these tactics. The Bok winger is confident that when Du Preez and Steyn deploy the box kick or garryowen this Sunday the South Africans will deliver a more accurate showing, and ultimately pressure the Wallabies into errors.
‘We’ve spoken a lot about execution and accuracy over the course of this tournament,’ said Habana. ‘It hasn’t been where it should be: We are not getting up in the air when the kicks go up and our chase lines haven’t been great.
‘It’s also not easy when you have to make something like 200 tackles per game, but then you have to look at why we are spending so much time on defence. We have conceded too many knockons and turnovers, so we have to work harder to keep possession.’
Habana said the Boks would be foolish to overdo the kick-chase ploy, and suggested that the talented South African backs could be used for something other than defence. Much will depend on the conditions at the Wellington Regional Stadium, but Habana feels there will always be an opportunity to attack.
‘We enjoyed throwing it around against Namibia and Samoa. The Aussie backs can be lethal when the weather is dry, but we would also prefer it to be dry. However, we can’t control the weather. We will wake up on Sunday and decide how to play, we will have to be able to adapt.
‘That also doesn’t mean we won’t look to play in the right areas. It will come down to decision making this weekend, and individuals will need to make the right calls of when to counter-attack or when to kick.’
If the Boks do manage to win the territorial battle, they may also vary their approach inside the Wallabies’ 22. The Boks have won some big Tests by kicking a series of drop goals, the most famous of which was the 1999 World Cup quarter-final where Jannie de Beer potted five.
Habana did not rule out the possibility of a repeat, but stressed that there was no set plan to win the match in this manner.
‘If the opportunities are there, you would be stupid not to take them. Against such a good Aussie defence and in a quarter-final game, you have to take your chances, and I’m sure Morne has been given licence within our structures to do so [kick drop goals]. But we are not going out with the sole aim to kick drop goals. We’re going out to play positively.’
While Habana and back three partner JP Pietersen have won a World Cup, they have struggled to recapture the attacking form that made them such devastating runners at the 2007 tournament. They will also be without Frans Steyn at the back, but Habana expects the precocious Pat Lambie to hold his own at No 15.
‘I’ve seen him grow into a fine player over the past two years. He almost single-handedly won the Currie Cup for the Sharks last year. He is also very composed, he has an old head on young shoulders.’
By Jon Cardinelli, in Wellington