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JP Pietersen hails fellow South Africa wing Bryan Habana

Published 15/10/2015

JP Pietersen, right, says Bryan Habana is one of the best 11s he has ever played with
JP Pietersen, right, says Bryan Habana is one of the best 11s he has ever played with

JP Pietersen insists South Africa try machine Bryan Habana is improving with age as the wings prepare to spearhead the Springboks' assault on Wales at Twickenham.

Pietersen has recovered from the knee injury that forced him to miss the 64-0 rout of USA in time for the first World Cup quarter-final and features in the same starting XV as Habana for a 42nd international.

Habana, 32, is the joint highest try-scorer in the World Cup history with 15 and needs just one more to elevate him above New Zealand great Jonah Lomu.

"Bryan gets better as he gets older. He has 114 caps and he's a legend around South Africa," Pietersen said.

"When we need something big, Bryan Habana always steps up. To be equal try scorer with Jonah Lomu is a seriously amazing achievement.

"Everyone in the team has utmost respect for him. I've been playing with him all my Test career and I enjoy seeing him at his best.

"I love playing with him, rather than against him. He's one of the great 11s that has played the game. Whatever I've contributed to that, I'll claim!"

South Africa have nudged their quest to win a third World Cup back on track since being stunned by Japan, stringing together emphatic victories over Samoa, Scotland and the USA.

"It has been difficult for us as a team after what happened in our first game against Japan. It's been a character test for us," Pietersen added.

"We were all disappointed about what happened but I have to give credit to everyone in the team who has stood up in the three games since then. Everyone has seen the character in our team.

"We've played knockout rugby from game two of the pool stage. I think that probably helps a lot with the mental preparation for this stage.

"It was definitely emotional after the Japan game. We opened up and had a hard session with ourselves and what we did wrong.

"We let ourselves down and our country down. That's part of rugby. It's all about testing the character and our character has been tested since game two."

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