Habana’s six steps to glory

Springbok winger Bryan Habana could break the World Cup and tier-one try-scoring records over the next seven weeks. JON CARDINELLI reports.

No player has scored more World Cup tries than Jonah Lomu. No tier-one Test player has scored more tries than the great Wallabies winger David Campese. However, that could all change if Habana crosses the tryline six times at the 2015 World Cup.

To date, Habana has scored 59 tries in 110 Tests. He surpassed Joost van der Westhuizen’s South African Test record when he scored his 39th try against Namibia at the 2011 World Cup. Four years on, and Habana is in a position to break two more records.

The Habana of 2015 is in a far better space than the Habana of 2011. Between 2008 and 2011, Habana managed just 10 tries in 38 Tests. After the 2011 World Cup, Habana worked hard to address his dip in form and to regain the edge that had earned him the 2007 IRB Player of the Year award.

The stats confirm that the effort has paid dividends. Habana has scored almost twice as many tries in the subsequent four-year period between 2012 and 2015 (19 tries in 36 Tests).

Lomu finished his career with 15 tries in 11 World Cup matches. That record will be under threat at the 2015 World Cup if Habana finds the tryline on a regular basis.

To date, Habana has scored 10 tries in 11 World Cup matches. Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell, who was recently recalled to the national squad, is another who sits on 11 tries and may surpass Lomu before the 2015 tournament is done.

That said, Habana is more likely to eclipse Lomu than Mitchell. This statement is made with the contrasting pool schedules of South Africa and Australia in mind.

The Boks will face just one tier-one nation during the preliminaries (Scotland), and not a particularly dangerous one at that. The Wallabies will have to deal with England and Wales, as well as a fired-up Fiji. It seems likely that the Boks, and more specifically Habana, will have more scoring opportunities against the likes of Japan, Samoa, Scotland and the USA.

Habana is currently fourth on the all-time try-scoring list behind Daisuke Ohata (69), Campese (64) and Shane Williams (60). The Japan winger’s record is unlikely to be broken in the near future, but there is a chance that Habana will go past Williams and then Campese in the next few weeks to become the most prolific try-scorer in tier-one rugby.

The validity of 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.

To further illustrate the point, 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. By contrast, Campese, Williams and Habana climbed their way up the try-scoring rankings while competing against the best sides in the northern and southern hemispheres.

Habana does already share one World Cup record with Lomu. The All Blacks winger scored eight tries at the 1999 World Cup to claim the record for the most tries at a single global tournament. Habana equalled this record at the 2007 World Cup in France.

Photo: Tertius Pickard/Gallo Images

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