Bryan Habana believes Rassie Erasmus has brought “joy and pride” back to the South African badge after an impressive 2018.
The Springboks have a spring in their step this year, having won seven of Erasmus’ 14 games in charge since taking the reins from Allister Coetzee in March.
Erasmus’ tally of victories is only four behind Coetzee’s total of 11 from an ultimately miserable 22 months in charge that dragged South Africa to its knees – the lowlight a record 57-0 defeat to the All Blacks in September 2017.
However, a day shy of exactly a year on from that dark day, the world champions were toppled 36-34 in their own back yard during the Rugby Championship.
Full-back Willie le Roux said following the 20-11 defeat to Wales in Cardiff last weekend that brought the curtain down on his first year in charge that the fear factor had returned to South Africa.
“There was a stage where people did not fear the Springboks anymore, or the badge. We are getting that back,” said Le Roux.
But Boks legend Habana feels it is joy that has returned more than anything else.
“There’s definitely been progression post 2016, 2017,” Habana told Sport360 at the Dubai Rugby Sevens on Thursday where he is acting as an ambassador for HSBC.
“They are by no means the finished product and I think Rassie and Siya (Kolisi, South Africa captain) will know that. But I think there’s a little bit more hope installed. They way they’ve been playing, the win in Wellington against New Zealand, was unbelievable.”
Habana, 35, is his nation’s record tryscorer with 67 in 124 Tests (second behind Victor Matfield’s 127 caps) – his haul of tries is second only to Japan’s Daisuke Ohata (69) in international rugby.
South Africa’s 2018 has instilled confidence back in the famous green jersey and that will fill the players and a nation with confidence going into a World Cup year.
And even though the Boks face the world champion All Blacks in their pool in Japan in 2019, and a likely quarter-final showdown with No2 ranked team Ireland, Habana believes that will act as a driving force for Erasmus and Co.
Habana added: “There’s a lot more joy and pride in being a Springboks supporter and we know we’re going to play New Zealand in the World Cup pool stages and perhaps a quarter-final against Ireland if it works out like that.
“But to win a World Cup you have to beat the best in the world. It’s a good time to be a Springboks supporter but we know there’s a long way to go. But it’s exciting.”
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