Defence must tighten up says Habana

Bryan Habana is hoping that South Africa will rectify the defensive errors made in the first Test against the British and Irish Lions when they take on the tourists in a potential series-decider in Pretoria this week.

The Springbok winger was referring to the way in which the home side let their opponents come back into the game in the closing 12 minutes in Durban.

Peter de Villiers' team were well in front at that stage leading by 19 points, before a flurry of substitutions by the coach, including the withdrawal of captain John Smit three minutes earlier, coupled by a late Lions fightback almost cost them the game.

In the end, they eventually held on to prevail 26-21 and Habana is hoping they will learn from what happened at the Absa Stadium.

"I don't think there was much wrong with our defensive system," he said. "I think there were a couple of times where we made wrong decisions as individuals, myself included.

"And that posed a big question for us in defence where we had to scramble a lot for each other. I think we respected their backs and that's without saying we knew it's going to be a tough task.

"That said, we give ourselves goals and set ourselves certain standards. As backs, maybe we let ourselves down a little bit, putting a little extra pressure on ourselves.

"But like I said, what happened on Saturday was done and dusted there. There were mistakes and as a team we will try and rectify them in this coming week."

The 26-year-old, who will make his 48th Test appearance for South Africa at Loftus Versfeld, insists all that mattered in the series opener was gaining the victory.

He continued: "We'll take the win, whether it was by five points, one point or by 50. The first Test was always going to be vitally important.

"We're professionals and when you get selected to play for the Springboks, no matter where you play, you've got to take responsibility and I definitely feel that we have the calibre of players at the moment to take that responsibility."

By his own high standards Habana had a quiet game going forward on the coast, and has even come in for criticism from some quarters about the way he played.

But the Bulls ace revealed that he was happy with his contribution, saying: "I think when you play Test match rugby and especially when you only have a series every 12 years against the Lions, the most important factor is that you make a contribution towards a successful team.

"I think defensively, I was really happy with where I was on Saturday. Like I say, whether I'm scoring tries or making turnover tackles, I think that's quite important.

"It's always nice to score tries, but I think when you got a series as massively important as this one, then just winning is probably the most important thing.

"It wasn't very nice not getting onto the scoreboard, but the contribution that each and every player made for that 80 minutes was vitally important, whether it was on attack or defence."

Habana, who has scored 32 Test tries since is debut in against England in 2004, is also relishing the return to his provincial home, where the Bulls were recently crowned Super 14 champions.

He added: "Loftus has been really great for me and I really love playing there. It's a special place for me.

"So hopefully I'll be able to do something in the next couple of weeks and go enjoy a possible whitewash, but until that happens, my contribution to the team will be a lot different and we'll see where it goes from there."


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