All Blacks bring out best in Boks

Bryan Habana says the Springboks always find an extra gear when facing the All Blacks and the World Cup semi-final will be no different. JON CARDINELLI reports in London.

The Boks won’t be wanting for motivation when they meet their traditional foes at Twickenham this Saturday. The South African players always seem to lift themselves for a battle against New Zealand. The opportunity to play in the World Cup final on 31 October will also be driving them forward.

Habana has long spoken about the need to inspire and boost a nation that has so many reasons to be depressed. On Tuesday at the Bok team hotel, Habana took the opportunity to say the team was sad to hear about the tragic death of Zukisa Kela, a proud Bok supporter who was recently murdered in Johannesburg.

According reports, the last thing Kela said to his boss was ‘Viva maBokoboko viva!’ Habana confirmed that the story had touched the Boks and put things into perspective.

‘His family is in our prayers,’ said Habana. ‘It’s very sad when you hear about something like that. At the same time, it’s pretty special to hear about the passion he had for the Boks. That makes you want to go out and make him and the rest of the country proud.’

The veteran winger did admit that the Boks would need more than passion to defeat the No 1-ranked side in the world. The All Blacks have won 47 of their last 52 Tests and thrashed France 62-13 in the quarter-final in Cardiff last week.

‘When you play the All Blacks, you need to be better than your best,’ Habana said. ‘Your discipline needs to be unbelievable. Your physicality has to move up 10 notches.

‘There’s no question of us being up for this. A game against the All Blacks lifts you ten-fold. You want to prove yourself against the best team in the world. It’s the kind of game that brings out the best in you.

‘We’ve been playing knockout rugby for the past four weeks [since the loss to Japan placed South Africa in a must-win situation for the remainder of the pool stage]. But we know we will need to make another step up this weekend.’

Habana supplied yet another reason to perform. A number of older players like Habana, Fourie du Preez, Victor Matfield and Schalk Burger are competing in what will be their final World Cup tournament. The All Blacks are also likely to bid farewell to Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and a few others at the end of the campaign.

‘There are a number of legends on both sides who might not be around post the World Cup,’ said Habana. ‘Both teams will be laying everything out there. It would be great to win, but hopefully the two teams can put on another good display for the game as we have in the past.’

Photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

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Jon Cardinelli