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Rugby | Springboks

Habana defends De Villiers's captaincy



Springbok winger Bryan Habana has called on fans to give skipper Jean de Villiers more credit for his leadership skills.

Habana used the opportunity to talk about the leadership roles in the team, and praised De Villiers for his leadership skills in the past year, a tough year for Springbok rugby.

The Bok captain is currently in doubt for Saturday’s Castle Lager Incoming Series match against Samoa with a sternum injury, and if he is ruled out, as is expected, the Boks will need to name a new captain.

Adriaan Strauss and Francois Louw are the front-runners to succeed De Villiers if that happens, but Habana and Pierre Spies are the other outsiders along with Bismarck du Plessis.

De Villiers has often been criticised for his play, especially in an under-performing Stormers side this year, but has received the backing of the 2012 SA Rugby Player of the Year, who praised his value to the team.

“Coming into this squad last year, it was a pretty young group of players around. I think myself, Jean (de Villiers) and Frans (Steyn) were the only ones with more than 50 caps. The leadership responsibility is always there and it would be sad to lose Jean. He doesn’t always get the amount of credit he deserves as captain and he was unbelievable this weekend, getting an injury in the first ten minutes and fighting on,” Habana said.

“He made some bold calls in that game and led effectively well. If he isn’t there it will be sad because he has been a great stalwart not only for South African rugby but also for international rugby.”

Questions are often asked about De Villiers’s longevity and whether or not he will make the 2015 World Cup. For that reason the rest he will get if he does sit out this weekend's game won’t necessarily be a bad thing.

Heyneke Meyer has always operated his teams on leadership groups rather than simply a captain and the game will be a perfect opportunity for an understudy to get a chance to shine as leader.

Habana sees this also as a good thing, and said De Villiers’s absence would probably test the rest of the senior leadership group to step up and fulfill the role.

“If he is not going to be there, there will be a lot more opportunity for the rest of the senior group. The leadership group has been together for a long time now. If you look Bismarck is back, Ruan has been there and Adriaan, Pierre and myself have been there for a long time now. We share our thinking in the way the team plays and the coach has allowed us to do that as well,” he added.

If that does happen Habana believes he will be able to take that step up and, more than that, is looking forward to the opportunity to play a more leading role in the team.

“You relish that opportunity and when you have played 85 tests your leadership ability has got to come to the fore. Hopefully my contribution, not only with ball in hand, but in motivating the players will be there. We will have to step up and I’m looking forward to it.”

The Boks will face Samoa in their last game before returning to Vodacom Super Rugby and then the Castle Rugby Championship thereafter.

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