Habana can surpass Campese

Springbok winger Bryan Habana needs one more try to claim the tier-one Test record for himself, writes JON CARDINELLI in Nelspruit.

Flashback to 7 October 2015. Habana scored three tries against the USA at the Olympic Stadium in a World Cup pool match. In doing so, Habana equalled All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu’s record of 15 World Cup tries, as well as Wallabies winger David Campese’s tier-one tally of 64.

Habana had more than one chance to score a fourth try in that match and claim those records for himself. He played three more games for the Boks at that tournament, but failed to add to his World Cup and overall tally.

At the end of South Africa’s campaign, many wondered if Habana would end his international career stranded on 64 tries; a fantastic achievement and yet one short of owning the tier-one record. Few expected Habana to return to Test rugby in 2016, a season that marked the beginning of a new era for the Boks.

Nine months on, and Habana is set to play in his 118th Test. The Bok veteran ran with the starting side during the training sessions in Nelspruit earlier this week. He is expected to start against Argentina at the Mbombela Stadium this Saturday. The Bok team for the Rugby Championship opener will be named later today.

Habana will bring some much-needed experience to the starting backline. Coach Allister Coetzee is expected to name a brand new back-three combination in Johan Goosen, Ruan Combrinck, and Habana. Damian de Allende and Lionel Mapoe will start in midfield. Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies will start at scrumhalf and flyhalf respectively. Apart from Habana, none of the starting backs have played more than 16 Tests.

While he would never admit to it publicly, Habana will be looking to add to his try tally as well as his already outstanding legacy in the coming weeks. One more try will allow Habana to claim the tier-one Test record all for himself.

Habana could score his 65th Test try this Saturday. He could become the most prolific Test try-scorer in tier-one history.

At this point, Habana is only six tries shy of the all-time record, which is currently held by Japan wing Daisuke Ohata (69). When Habana travelled to the 2015 World Cup, he only had 59 tries to his name and his future with the Boks beyond the global tournament was uncertain. Now that he has added to his tally, and now that he has received a further opportunity thanks to new coach Coetzee, Habana may well threaten Ohata’s record.

Of course, Ohata’s record has always been a point of debate as Japan play so many of their Tests against minnow nations.

Ohata scored 69 tries in 58 Tests. However, 42 of those tries were scored in matches against Arabian Gulf, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Korea and Spain. Ohata once scored eight tries against Chinese Taipei, and six against Hong Kong. He never played against the senior teams of England or Australia, and never faced the Boks or the All Blacks.

Habana may well receive the opportunity to push for that record. But first, he must ensure that he claims the tier-one record for himself.

Photo: Shaun Botteril/Getty Images

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Jon Cardinelli