Rugby World Cup: You’re Habana a laugh
13:41 08 October 2015
PA/Press Association Images
South Africa 64-0 USA. There was only ever going to be one winner.
The majority of the USA side will return to their full-time jobs after the tournament whereas the mighty Springboks boasted a starting 15 with 623 caps between them.
On top of that, the American Eagles had a number of players rested in preparation for their climactic clash with giant-slayers Japan, the lengthy odds were pretty justified.
But with Georgia putting in a memorable performance against the All Blacks and South Africa themselves falling foul of the Japanese in their opening match, there is always an element of “anything can happen” at a World Cup.
But that thought lasted all of seven minutes, until Damian de Allende dived over the line to open the scoring.
The first half was largely forgettable although South African mistakes kept the gap to just 14 by the break.
As a neutral watching from the stands I was naturally rooting for the underdog and secretly hoping for an upset, but as the minutes wore on and the points racked up, my allegiances switched as the question became just how points many the Springboks would get.
Every time they picked up the ball after the break they looked like scoring, and like the majority of people inside the ground, I wanted it to be a memorable “I was there” match.
And so it became, thanks to one Bryan Habana.
The speedy winger scored a hat-trick inside 21 second-half minutes to draw level with New Zealand legend Jonah Lomu’s mark of 15 World Cup tries.
But even the most gifted of finishers make mistakes, and the Toulon man missed breaking clear of the record by dropping what looked like a dead-cert diving over the line.
With the Springboks through to face either Australia or Wales in the last-eight next week, it looks likely he’ll go clear of Lomu at this tournament.
In fact head coach Heyneke Meyer joked in the press conference afterwards that the only side he wouldn’t like to face is Japan.
But even if they do crash out without Habana touching down again, at the age of 32 he could easily add to his tally in Japan in four year’s time.
Not only was it the biggest winning margin of this year’s tournament – although still 78 points shy of Australia’s embarrassing annihilation of Namibia in 2003 – but it was also the first nil-ing of this year’s competition.
Admittedly that was partly through a lack of American skill and clinical edge, but the strength of the Bok’s defence and dominance at the scrum sent out a big message to the other tournament favourites.