South Africa have a secret weapon up their sleeves for the World Cup, according to former 124-test Springboks wing Bryan Habana.
Speaking at the 2019 Laureus World Sports Awards in Monaco, Habana said some of the Springboks’ playing experience in Japan in recent seasons could help the two-time World Cup champions in their bid for world supremacy when the 2019 edition of the tournament kicks off in seven months’ time.
“What could potentially count in our favour is the number of players going to the World Cup that ply their trade in Japan,” Habana said.
“You have guys like Duane Vermeulen, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende and Eben Etzebeth that know those conditions.
“They know what it is like from a logistical point of view, from a mindset point of view, and not only playing in Japan, but also being successful.”
13 of South Africa’s most recent 36-man squad for their end-of-year tour in November have played in Japan at various points in their career.
That is significantly more than that of any other tier one nation, with Australia containing the second-most players with Japanese club experience in their most recent squad thanks to the services of David Pocock, Bernard Foley, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Dane Haylett-Petty and Israel Folau.
With that in mind, Habana believes that Springboks head coach Rassie Erasmus has the personnel within his squad to deliver South Africa a third World Cup crown.
“Guys that may not necessarily have been well known on the international scene like Aphiwe Dyantyi and Sbu Nkosi, who was to me one of the shining lights,” the 35-year-old said.
“You have Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux who everyone 18 months ago said were done and dusted for the Springbok set-up playing a crucial role in how the team showed more promise in 2018.
“To win World Cups, you need about five to six players with 50 Test caps, and you need about the same players that can lead that side, which we have.”
The 2007 World Cup-winner threw his support behind captain Siya Kolisi, who he said has a strong support network around him through the leadership of Handre Pollard and Duane Vermuelen.
“When the Springboks click and we saw that in Wellington last year after a disappointing two years in 2016 and 2017, it just showed what the potential is,” Habana said.
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