Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Bryan Habana plays down altitude factor

Bryan Habana has warned South Africa should not pitch up at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday thinking the high altitude alone will help them overcome the British and Irish Lions in the second Test.

Much has been made about the 1,214-metre distance above sea level of the Pretoria stadium, with some former players even warning that if the tourists failed to win the series-opener in Durban, they would fail to come away with anything.

As it turned out, Ian McGeechan's men lost the first Test 26-21 against the world champions, despite a late rally at the Absa Stadium, but they must now win the remaining two games on the Highveld, the second of which takes place at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, 1,753 metres above sea level.

Habana, who has played provincial rugby at the two Gauteng grounds for his entire career, believes nothing should be taken for granted.

"The altitude and everything that comes with it is all circumstantial to the game," said Habana, who will win his 48th Test cap on Saturday. "If we just arrive there and think that altitude's going to win it for us, we're definitely going to be in the wrong space.

"That just doesn't win you a game. I've been very lucky to be part of a very successful Bulls side over the past five years. We've sort of made Loftus a very tough place to come and play at and with the Springboks it's been similar over the last couple of years.

"So with that altitude and everything, it's still totally up to the players on the day. You've got to still arrive and play a Test match.

"You're playing against the best players in the northern hemisphere and if you think altitude is going to help you on the day, then you're going to be negatively affected."

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 26-year-old maintained he was happy with his contribution, saying: "I think defensively I was really happy with where I was on Saturday. Whether I'm scoring tries or making turnover tackles, that's quite important.

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

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

"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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