Habana salutes Bok coach

Springbok wing Bryan Habana has praised the impact of national coach Peter de Villiers as the countdown to this summer's Lions tour gathers pace. [more]

Habana salutes Bok coach

Springbok wing Bryan Habana has praised the impact of national coach Peter de Villiers as the countdown to this summer’s Lions tour gathers pace.

De Villiers took over from Jake White in January of 2008 and is now preparing to take the Boks into battle against the Lions in June and July of this year.

The appointment of the former Springbok Under 21 supremo was met with widespread criticism and even disillusionment in some quarters, but Habana insists his coach has already proved his worth.

The Boks finished their 2008 season in style, putting 50 points on Australia in the final Tri Nations fixture before defeating Wales and Scotland and hammering England during their November UK tour.

Now attentions turn to the Lions and Habana is certain the Boks have the right man in charge to lead them to a sought-after series victory.

"Coach Peter has done really well," said Habana, who knew de Villiers from his time in the South African age-group ranks and is now likely to be one of his country’s most important performers against the Lions.

"I’d worked with him previously but a lot of the senior players didn’t really know where he was coming from. He came in and put a lot of responsibility on the players to take ownership.

"That’s the great thing about being part of the Springbok team at the moment, we’re really a close-knit unit, not only on a personal level but on a rugby level as well. When you’re part of a team that you get 21 mates from, it makes it even more worthwhile."

Bryan Habana has beaten England, Scotland and Wales in recent months

De Villiers began his Springbok reign with wins over Wales (twice) and Italy, before falling to his first defeat at the hands of New Zealand in his opening Tri Nations encounter. His side bounced immediately and in stunning fashion, defeating the same opposition 30-28 in Dundein a week later.

A comfortable victory over Argentina then failed to paper over the cracks of three Tri Nations defeat in a row (two of which came on home soil), but, just as pressure on de Villiers appeared to be rising, the Boks produced the kind of rugby that had all of South Africa smiling.

A half-century of points against the Wallabies hinted at almost endless possibilities, while somewhat fortunate wins over the Welsh and the Scots were followed by an historic thrashing of their 2007 World Cup Final opponents at Twickenham.

All in all, Habana believes 2008 was a satisfying year for de Villiers and his world champion Springboks. Now the 25-year-old Bulls star is hoping that 2009 can be even better.

"Peter de Villiers has put a lot in," added Habana.

"To win eight out of 13 in his first year, I don’t think is too bad. It was the first time in 10 years we won all the games on an end of year tour so I don’t think the results are too bad.

"That’s something in the past now, though, and we’re looking forward to making a huge contribution in 2009."

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