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Habana leads chase for the World crown

By Gavin Mairs

As if England needed any warning about the danger posed by Springbok flying wing Bryan Habana, the video clip widely available on the internet of the 24-year-old racing against a cheetah show just what a threat he will pose in tonight's World Cup final.

The result of the charity 100m race between the fastest rugby player on the planet and the fastest animal on earth last April ended in a draw.

Habana did have a 30-metre start against the cheetah, which can accelerate from 0-60mph in three seconds and has a top speed of 70mph.

The Blue Bulls star has already equalled Jonah Lomu's try-scoring record for World Cup with eight touchdowns. Tonight he wants to go one step further by helping the Springbok side claim a second world crown whether he scores or not.

"The record is nice. It's good to get, but it's not about any one player, its about the whole team making a contribution," said Habana.

"It's been unbelievable to make a contribution over the last six weeks but it means nothing if I don't get out there and make the most of it on Saturday."

The thought of becoming a world champion is a daunting one for Habana, who was only 12 when the Springboks won the World Cup on home turf in 1995.

"Until I get out there I am not even thinking about it," he added. "Seeing what it did to the nation in 95, I don't even think I can start thinking about it until we get there.

"I am not thinking about it. If it does happen there's going to be a guy jumping up and down for the next couple of years."

For most of the England team, there will be no second chance.

With an average age of over 31, Brian Ashton's team hope their improving defence will halt Habana in his tracks and by keeping mistakes to a minimum will not give him a sniff of an intercept try.

An England victory tonight would be an achievement without equal in world rugby.

"Four weeks ago, we were staring down the barrel of a gun and on the way home," said Vickery. "But we are in a World Cup final, and we've achieved a lot of things to get here.

"We thoroughly deserve our chance to be here, but being here is not good enough - we want to go out and retain our trophy.

"I don't think the guys need much motivation. There are huge amounts of expectation outside the team, and from within the side.

"The challenge is for us to up our performance on the biggest stage in world rugby, which is not an easy feat to achieve."

Vickery added: "We all trust each other implicitly within the side, and we need to produce a performance that will compete with South Africa.

"It's great we are here in the final. It's not by luck, we have deserved to be here, and credit to everyone involved.

"Playing for your country is always a huge honour. I have been lucky enough to be part of some fantastic occasions, but I don't want to go back home without that cup.

"We are very close, and we want to achieve it now. I am sure there will be some pretty crazy things going on (back home), but let's win a game of rugby and do ourselves and our country proud.

" Five weeks ago, we were beaten by a far better side. There was a lot of hurt felt by the players, but we didn't perform. The challenge is there for us all."

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