Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Habana relishing North challenge

Bryan Habana

South Africa speedster Bryan Habana knows he will face a very different challenge from the one he is accustomed to when he lines up opposite new Wales cap George North at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

North faces a huge test against 27-year-old Habana, the top try scorer at the 2007 World Cup and South Africa's joint record try scorer with Joost van der Westhuizen on 38, who has been used to facing Shane Williams during his five appearances against the men in red.

"I had not heard that much about him," admitted the Stormers' three-quarter. "We have done some analysis on him this week and he is a big lad, over 100kgs I think, so he is a bit bigger than Shane!"

Eighteen-year-old North has been named in Warren Gatland's side after making an impressive start to the season with the Scarlets in the Magners League, scoring four tries in five Celtic appearances for the west Wales region.

And, with North standing at 6ft 4in and weighing 16st 7lbs, Habana is ready for the greater physical threat the youngster will offer compared to the dancing feet of the diminutive Williams.

Habana added: "My contest with Shane has been going on over five or six years but I think any player that gets to put on that red jersey on Saturday will come in to the game with a real force behind them. George has done well in the domestic leagues and I am sure he won't be looking to stray too far away from what he has been doing on Saturday."

Habana won the first of his 67 Springbok caps as a replacement against England in 2004 and, as he cast his mind back to his own debut, he knows how his opposite number will be feeling.

"He must be really excited," he said." Any time you get called up to wear the jersey, it's a really special moment and you want to go out there and deliver. You don't just get called into a Wales squad, you have to have proven your worth domestically and George has done that. He is a big lad who does a lot of work off the ball and we will have to be at our best to stop him.

"I remember when I won my first cap against England at Twickenham, when I came on Josh Lewsey was on the wing and Jason Robinson was at full-back, so that was a real easy combination to come up against!

"I managed to score a try with my first touch which was quite special. We ended up losing 32-16, and while I enjoyed scoring a try it was sad losing my first game in a Springbok jumper. George will be going out to make sure he marks his debut with a win."

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