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'There was a real decrease in the energy levels': Bryan Habana dissects the Springboks loss

By Ben Smith
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Former Springboks great Bryan Habana has offered his take on the two Rugby Championship test matches that were shared one-all between New Zealand and South Africa.

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The former winger who played 124 times for South Africa, joined former All Black wing Jeff Wilson pitch side for an interview aired on Sky Sport NZ’s The Breakdown. 

Habana said that while the Springboks dominated last week, they had issues with their energy levels in the second test.

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The rematch was played at higher altitude in Johannesburg than the previous week in Mbombela.

“I think last week what we saw was a Springbok team that physically dominated,” Habana said.

“In contact, at the breakdown, won the contact in the air, were able to win the kicking game.

“I think we saw a little bit of deflation in that energy level tonight.

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“Conversely, we saw an All Black team that was wounded, had the backs against the wall, and came out here from the first minute put themselves into play.”

The Boks leading all-time try scorer was impressed by the performances of two All Black loose forwards who imposed themselves on the game.

He singled out the return of Highlanders No 6 Shannon Frizell and the in-form Ardie Savea as two leaders who stood up for the visitors.

“Incredibly lead, in my opinion, by Shannon Frizell getting over the gainline. Ardie Savea was immense at the breakdown,” he said.

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“It was a brilliant game of test match rugby. There was ebb-and-flow but really the best team won on the day.

“There was a lot of opportunities for both sides, but a classic test match between the Springboks and the All Blacks.”

The contentious decision to bench Malcolm Marx was a talking point in dissecting the Boks loss.

Habana believed that South Africa missed having the hooker on the field from the start and would have taken an ‘old school’ approach to selecting the team.

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“I’m probably very old school,” Habana told Wilson.

“I understand the ‘what’s the plan for growing the squad for a World Cup’ [approach], making sure everyone has a taste of international experience.

“When you have the best hooker in the world on the bench having to come on after 30 odd minutes, does that deflate the energy?  There was a real decrease in the energy levels from minute one.

“Conversely, I really think the All Blacks just upped the anti. They weren’t in their shells, they had nothing to lose, backs up against the wall, four and half million people potentially against them.

After hosting the All Blacks for two tests, the Boks will have to regroup to play the Wallabies in Australia who play a similar game of up tempo rugby.

The Springboks were ambushed last year by Dave Rennie’s side, conceding two losses in their two fixtures across Queensland.

However, Habana was excited by the talent available for South Africa to match the style that Australia will throw at them as illustrated by the performances of some of their attacking players at Ellis Park.

“But for the Springboks I think they showed glimpses, if they could just get their game management right,” he said.

“They have some phenomenal ball players, Damian Willemse at second receiver that pass to Makazole Mapimpi, Willie le Roux coming on and being an extra set of hands.

“Luhkanyo Am on the wing was exceptional.”

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