Habana to play 100th test for Springboks
PERTH, Australia (AP) — Winger Bryan Habana will become the fourth Springbok to play 100 tests when South Africa meets Australia in the Rugby Championship on Saturday.
Habana was picked in the side on Wednesday, and joins in the century club Percy Montgomery, John Smit and Victor Matfield, all of whom he has played with since his debut against England in 2004.
Habana holds the test try-scoring record for South Africa with 56, fourth best on the all-time list.
“Bryan is a true professional and someone who never gives anything but his best, on the field and off it,” coach Heyneke Meyer said. “For him to reach this magnificent milestone is just reward for years of dedication and hard work.
“Bryan is also a humble servant to the game and a true ambassador for his family, his friends and his country. He will go down in history as one of the greatest rugby players of all time.”
Matfield, the most capped Springbok, was recalled to play his 114th test after missing the home and away wins against Argentina because of a knee injury. There were five other changes to the starting lineup.
Hooker Adriaan Strauss, loosehead prop Tendai Mtawarira and flanker Marcell Coetzee come into the pack, while Lood de Jager and Bismarck du Plessis drop to the bench, and Gurthro Steenkamp and Juan Smith are rested.
Flyhalf Morne Steyn, who kicked the late match-winning penalty against the Pumas in Salta, starts ahead of newcomer Handre Pollard, and Jan Serfontein is in at outside centre for Damian de Allende.
The uncapped Warren Whiteley was in the reserves as cover for the loose forwards.
Australia lost 51-20 to New Zealand 10 days ago, and Meyer said he expects the Wallabies to bounce back.
“I truly believe they have a quality, quality side,” Meyer said. “In the wet they played some great rugby where they drew (with the All Blacks). And even the game they lost, I know they lost on the scoreboard, quite considerably, but they showed some brilliant touches and played some great rugby.”
South Africa leads the championship after two rounds by one point over second-placed New Zealand. Argentina and Australia are level on points with two each, with the Pumas in third place because of a better points differential.
The All Blacks host Argentina in Napier in the other match Saturday.
South Africa: Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks, Jan Serfontein, Jean de Villiers (captain), Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Ruan Pienaar; Duane Vermeulen, Marcell Coetzee, Francois Louw, Victor Matfield, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Bismarck du Plessis, Trevor Nyakane, Marcel van der Merwe, Lood de Jager, Warren Whiteley, Francois Hougaard, Pat Lambie, Damian de Allende.